L.A. County to pay Vanessa Bryant $28.85M to settle lawsuit over Kobe helicopter crash photos

Francis Akhalbey March 01, 2023
Vanessa Bryant has reached a $28.85 million settlement with L.A. County -- Photo: Kobe Bryant/Instagram

A Los Angeles County attorney announced the county has agreed to pay $28.85 million to Vanessa Bryant to settle a lawsuit over photos that were taken at the scene of the 2020 helicopter crash that took the life of her husband Kobe Bryant as well as their daughter, Gianna.

In a statement, the lead trial counsel for Los Angeles County in the case, Mira Hashmall, said the settlement puts to bed all claims that were brought against the county, NBC News reported. The settlement also closes the case the NBA legend’s widow brought against the county after photos of the crash site were taken by first responders and later circulated.

“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement to CNN. “She fought for her husband, her daughter, and all those in the community whose deceased family were treated with similar disrespect. We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice.”

On January 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant, 41, was on board the Sikorsky S-76B with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, alongside seven others when the helicopter suddenly banked and plunged into the hills in southern California, Face2Face Africa reported at the time. Everyone on board died. The group was headed for a youth basketball match.

Hashmall said the initial $15 million a jury awarded Vanessa Bryant is part of the settlement. “The $28,850,000 settlement includes the verdict awarded by the federal jury in August 2022, and further resolves all outstanding issues related to pending legal claims in state court, future claims by the Bryant children, and other costs, with each party responsible for its respective attorneys’ fees,” Hashmall said. “We hope Ms. Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss,” she added.

Per the complaint, Vanessa Bryant and her attorneys alleged that the photos that were taken of her deceased husband and daughter at the crash site invaded her privacy and made her suffer emotional distress, The Associated Press reported after the jury awarded the widow the $15 million. The photos in question were largely shared by LA County deputies and firefighters.

Some of the officials were said to have shared the photos while they were playing video games. Others also shared them at an awards banquet. Some of their married partners as well as a bartender also saw the photos.

Vanessa Bryant took the stand during the 11-day trial. She testified that her grief over the deaths of her husband and daughter aggravated after she became aware of the photos. She also said she still suffers panic attacks over the thought that the photos are still in circulation.

“I live in fear every day of being on social media and these popping up,”  the 40-year-old testified during the trial. “I live in fear of my daughters being on social media and these popping up.”

Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter, Payton, also died in the 2020 helicopter crash. The deceased woman’s husband, Chris Chester, also filed a lawsuit over the photos. And besides being awarded $15 million in August, the county also reached a $4.95 million settlement with the widower to close other claims, NBC News reported. The families of the other individuals who died in the crash were each paid $1.25 million by the county to settle the case.

An investigation determined the crash was caused by pilot error.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 1, 2023

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