A jury on Wednesday ordered Los Angeles County to pay Kobe Bryant’s widow $16 million over photos taken of the NBA champion’s body when authorities responded to the scene of the fatal helicopter crash.
According to The Associated Press, Vanessa Bryant and her attorneys in the complaint 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 jury ultimately agreed with their argument.
The photos in question were largely shared by LA County deputies and firefighters. Vanessa Bryant reportedly broke down in tears when the verdict was being read.
The August 24 jury decision also came on the day the city of Los Angeles marks Kobe Bryant Day. The NBA champion’s jersey numbers during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers were 8 and 24 – which is August 24 when converted into a date format. The deceased NBA Hall of Famer was also born on August 23.
Following the verdict, Vanessa Bryant took to Instagram to pay tribute to her husband and daughter. “All for you!” she captioned alongside a photo of the three of them. “I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!”
LA County sheriffs and firefighters largely circulated the crash photos among themselves. 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.
The 11-day trial saw Vanessa Bryant taking the stand. 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, per The Associated Press.
“I live in fear every day of being on social media and these popping up,” the 40-year-old testified. “I live in fear of my daughters being on social media and these popping up.”
The jury awarded a total of $31 million over the photos. The other $15 million was awarded to Chris Chester, a co-plaintiff whose wife and daughter also died in the January 2020 crash.
During the trial, Vanessa Bryant’s lawyer Luis Li argued that the photos weren’t taken for official or investigative reasons, adding that they were captured for “visual gossip” and “for a laugh.”
But County attorney J. Mira Hashmall told jurors that the photos served as a needed tool for getting an overview of the accident, The Associated Press reported. And though she admitted that the photos shouldn’t have been widely shared, she argued that they were never made public and the plaintiffs hadn’t come across them. Hashmall said it indicated that Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other officials put in rigorous effort to ensure the deletion of the photos.
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.
An investigation determined the crash was caused by pilot error.