Vanessa Bryant awarded $16 million in trial over Kobe Bryant crash photos


Category:  News & Politics

Via:  perrie-halpern  •  one month ago  •  11 comments

By:   Alicia Victoria Lozano

Vanessa Bryant awarded $16 million in trial over Kobe Bryant crash photos
A federal jury awarded the widow of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant $16 million in damages over leaked photographs of the site of the helicopter crash that killed

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T

LOS ANGELES — A federal jury awarded the widow of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant $16 million in damages over leaked photographs of the site of the helicopter crash that killed her husband and one of their daughters in 2020, which first responders snapped and shared with members of the public.

The nine jurors who returned the unanimous verdict agreed with Vanessa Bryant and her attorneys that deputies and firefighters who took and shared photos of the remains of Kobe Bryant and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, invaded her privacy and caused her emotional distress.

The federal jury deliberated for 4½ hours before it reached the verdict. Bryant cried quietly as it was read.

She posted a photo of herself with her husband and their daughter on social media shortly after the verdict, writing: "All for you! I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!"

Bryant and co-plaintiff Chris Chester sued Los Angeles County for unspecified millions of dollars over the photographs, which included graphic images of human remains.

Chester's wife, Sarah, and daughter, Payton, 13, were among nine people who were killed when their helicopter crashed north of Los Angeles.

The jury awarded Chester $15 million in damages.


"While we disagree with the jury's findings as to the County's liability, we believe the monetary award shows that jurors didn't believe the evidence supported the plaintiffs' request of $75 million for emotional distress," said Mira Hashmall, a partner at the Miller Barondess law firm who is lead outside counsel for Los Angeles County in the case.

Lawyers for Bryant and Chester argued that both plaintiffs suffered undue emotional stress after they learned that county employees took cellphone pictures of human remains as "souvenirs" and shared them with colleagues and members of the public.

Closing arguments began Tuesday, on what would have been Kobe Bryant's 44th birthday.

On Wednesday, Bryant walked into court wearing all white and holding the hands of her eldest daughter, Natalia, and close family friend Sydney Leroux, an Olympic gold medalist and Gianna's favorite soccer player. She was also joined by Los Angeles Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka and his wife.

Bryant endured two weeks of emotional testimony, at times wiping away tears and leaving the courtroom when graphic or painful evidence was introduced.

Bryant testified for more than three hours Friday, sobbing on the stand as she described the anguish and anger she felt after she learned that first responders had leaked the images.

"I felt like I wanted to run down the block and scream," she told the court, her body shaking with emotion. "I can't escape my body. I can't escape what I feel."


Evidence presented at trial showed that a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy shared a photo of Kobe Bryant's body to a bartender, spurring an official complaint from another bar patron who witnessed the exchange. Evidence also showed that firefighters passed around photos with one another at an awards banquet and that others shared them with their spouses.

An attorney for the county said that the photos were taken because they were essential to assess the difficult-to-reach crash site in the mountains above Malibu and that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva demanded that they all be deleted after he learned they had been shared.

Villanueva admitted in court last week that his department's policies were insufficient to address the privacy concerns at the center of the case. He said there was "no playbook" for first responders' using their personal devices to snap crash site photos.

Villanueva, who is up for re-election this year, also acknowledged he had no way to confirm whether all the leaked photos had been deleted.

No photos have emerged publicly, but Bryant said she lives in fear of seeing them one day.

The helicopter was heading from Orange County to Gianna's basketball game at Kobe Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks when heavy fog and low visibility doomed the flight.

Alli Rosenbloom, Bianca Seward and The Associated Press contributed.


jrDiscussion - desc
Senior Expert
1  Gsquared    one month ago

This is a big win for the plaintiffs. 

The defense attorney's statement:  "the monetary award shows that jurors didn't believe the evidence supported the plaintiffs' request of $75 million for emotional distress" is a rather transparent attempt to save face and the legal equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig. 

Professor Principal
2  Kavika     one month ago

It seems that any respect they should have shown was taken over by a total lack of humanity. The award was certainly just.

Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
3  Jeremy Retired in NC    one month ago

Do they not think photos from the scene wouldn't eventually surface?  Even one of JFK's autopsy photos ended up as an album cover.

There is a twisted fan club for photos like these.

Professor Expert
4  Tacos!    one month ago

Not to defend the county - they clearly wronged this family - but does an already fabulously wealthy plaintiff really need to take another $16 million from the taxpayers of LA County?

And why so much anyway? I doubt there is anything in this world that could be done to me - a regular slob - for which I could get $16 million for emotional distress.

Freshman Quiet
4.1  afrayedknot  replied to  Tacos! @4    one month ago

“…they clearly wronged this family…”

Wrong is wrong, regardless of the plaintiff’s financial circumstance. If this judgement protects the next family that may not have the same means, all the better.

And if you have a spouse and a child that have been subject to such abuse, there is no amount of money that will bring them back…but perhaps the settlement will make those willing to profit from a tragedy think twice. 

Professor Expert
4.1.1  Tacos!  replied to  afrayedknot @4.1    one month ago
If this judgement protects the next family

When have you seen lawsuits like this change the behavior of government? How many people have sued LA county (or some other government) for police brutality or broken sidewalks or whatever, but it continues anyway?

And anyway, the “next family” will be the wife and children of Joe Shmo, not Kobe Bryant. The Shmos will be surviving on less than six figures, and the county will just write them a check for $10,000.

Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
4.2  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Tacos! @4    one month ago

That money most likely will go to her and Kobe's charity, the Mamba and Mambacita Foundation.

Paula Bartholomew
Professor Guide
4.2.1  Paula Bartholomew  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @4.2    one month ago

According to my am news, that is exactly what she is doing.  She is not keeping one cent.

Professor Expert
4.2.2  Tacos!  replied to  Paula Bartholomew @4.2.1    one month ago

That's definitely better, but the money still comes from the taxpayers, and government employees keep doing stupid crap. Kinda frustrating.

Senior Expert
4.2.3  Gsquared  replied to  Tacos! @4.2.2    one month ago

I'm a taxpayer in L.A. County.  It is frustrating when government employees don't act more responsibly.  I'm especially frustrated by when I read about an abused child whose plight is ignored by the social welfare employees and we have to read about the child's death in the L.A.Times.  i want to see accountability by the government and I want to see the abusers punished severely and without mercy.

Sophomore Quiet
5  squiggy    one month ago

I can't even recall the issue but the last guy to win a notable lawsuit was absolutely drummed, right here. So, internet and justice surely don't go together.


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