Photo Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Vanessa Bryant Awarded $16M In Lawsuit Over Kobe Bryant Crash Site Photos
Kobe Bryant's widow Vanessa Bryant and co-plaintiff Chris Chester were awarded a combined $31 million by a Los Angeles jury on Wednesday.
Over two years after the untimely death of Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, a Los Angeles federal jury awarded Kobe's widow Vanessa Bryant $16 million. Bryant and her co-plaintiff, Chris Chester, filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County over the alleged distribution of photos from the helicopter crash site where Kobe and Gianna were killed on January, 26, 2020. In the same lawsuit, Chester was awarded $15 million, as his wife Sarah and their 13-year-old daughter Payton were also killed in the helicopter crash.
The L.A. Sheriff's Department will reportedly be paying Bryant $2.5 million for emotional distress along with $7.5 million for future suffering, while the L.A. County Fire Department owes her $1 million for past suffering and $5 million for future.
Bryant's suit was originally filed in September 2020, eight months following the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. According to a Los Angeles Times report from February 2020, some deputies at the crash site were found to have taken or shared graphic images. Sheriff Alex Villanueva reportedly told deputies to delete the pictures and keep the matter under wraps. When a complaint was filed, L.A. County denied any wrongdoing, even attempting to have Bryant's lawsuit dismissed.
Two years later, Bryant took the stand on August 10 and testified that she still experiences panic attacks after having learned about the photos and their distribution, per CNN.
"I just remember not wanting to react cause the girls were in the room," she testified. "I said, 'I can't do this.' ... And I bolted out of the house and I ran to the side of the house so the girls couldn't see me. I wanted to run... down the block and just scream. I can't escape my body. I can't escape what I feel."
During the trial, Bryant's lawyer Luis Lee played a video of an off-duty officer showing the graphic photos to a bartender while day drinking. While the bartender shook his head at one of the images in the video, another image showed the officer and bartender laughing. Lee also claimed that the images were distributed to at least 28 sheriff's department devices and by roughly a dozen firefighters.
Following the trial, a law firm for L.A. County released a statement about their disappointment with the outcome, while also being relieved that Bryant did not receive the $75 million she originally sought.
"We are grateful for the jury's hard work in this case," the statement read. "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. We will be discussing next steps with our client. Meanwhile, we hope the Bryant and Chester families continue to heal from their tragic loss."