Vanessa Bryant settles $28.85 million helicopter crash photo lawsuit
Los Angeles County agreed to pay Vanessa Bryant and three of her daughters nearly $30 million to settle a lawsuit and possible claims over the sharing of graphic photos of the January 2020 helicopter crash that involved Bryant’s husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant , and one of their daughters were killed, according to a court filing Tuesday. The settlement includes $15 million, which was awarded to Vanessa Bryant by a jury in August, plus additional funds to settle potential claims from her daughters.
“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous fight to hold accountable those involved in this grotesque behavior,” said Luis Li, Bryant’s attorney, in a statement. “She fought for her husband, her daughter and everyone in the community whose deceased family was treated with similar disrespect. We hope that their victory in the process and this agreement will put an end to this practice.”
On January 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna Bryant, 13, were with seven others on a helicopter when it crashed in fog outside of Los Angeles, killing everyone on board. Soon after, Vanessa Bryant learned that some firefighters and county sheriff’s personnel had shared vivid photos of human remains from the crash. She sued for negligence and invasion of privacy in September 2020 and won in court in August, earning a rare and expensive public admonition from some of Los Angeles’ most powerful institutions.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay Bryant’s family $28.85 million to settle Bryant’s lawsuit and possible future claims by Bryant and her daughters Natalia, 20, Bianka, 6, and Capri, 3. The jury awarded Bryant $16 million in August. which was later cut by $1 million due to a typographical error.
Kobe Bryant, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers for 20 years before retiring in 2016, was on his way to coach Gianna’s basketball team at his Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif., when she died on the day of the crash in climbed the helicopter. The pilot, Ara Zobayan, became disoriented in the clouds and crashed into a hillside near Calabasas, California, killing all nine people on board.
In testimony for her lawsuit, Vanessa Bryant said Rob Pelinka, the Lakers general manager and former agent of Kobe Bryant, drove her to a Malibu sheriff’s station near the crash site later that morning.
Los Angeles County sheriff at the time Alex Villanueva confirmed the deaths and asked Bryant if there was anything he could do for them, she said.
“And I said, ‘If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure nobody takes pictures of them. Please secure the area,” Bryant said during the statement. “And he said, ‘I will.’ And I said, ‘No, you need to make a phone call right now and make sure you secure the area.'”
Bryant testified in court that she learned from it a report by the Los Angeles Times that a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy had shown photos of the crash at a bar. The existence of the photos, Bryant said, compounded the tragedy.
“I live in fear that my daughters will be on social media and they’ll show up,” Bryant testified.
The images were primarily shared between employees of the Los Angeles County Sheriff and Fire Department.
County attorneys acknowledged that the photos were taken and shared, but argued that an immediate order to delete them prevented their public dissemination.
At the trial, the jury also awarded $15 million to Chris Chester, who joined the lawsuit because his wife Sarah, 45, and daughter Payton, 13, died in the crash. Los Angeles County agreed to pay the Chester family an additional $4.95 million to settle future claims.
Two other families settled separately with the county over the photos in October 2021 for $1.25 million each.
Li previously said Bryant would donate proceeds from the lawsuit to her Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, which honors Kobe and Gianna Bryant.
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/02/28/sports/basketball/vanessa-bryant-kobe-helicopter-crash-lawsuit.html Vanessa Bryant settles $28.85 million helicopter crash photo lawsuit