·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Lawsuits & Litigation

Helicopter Company Island Express Says Kobe Bryant “Knew the Risks” of Flying

— May 13, 2020

Attorneys for the brother of helicopter pilot Ara Zobayan took the argument a step further, claiming Kobe Bryant and his daughter were “directly responsible” for the crash.

Island Express, the helicopter company involved in the January crash that killed Kobe Bryant, has pushed back against allegations of negligence, saying the NBA legend, his daughter, and other passengers aboard the aircraft knew the risks inherent to flying.

The Bryant family, says CNN, sued Island Express earlier this year. The lawsuit—filed by Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa—holds the company and pilot Ara Zobayan responsible for the crash.

The lawsuit cites numerous counts of negligence, like Zobayan’s decision to fly in foggy weather. It claims that Zobayan, for instance, “failed to properly monitor and assess the weather prior to takeoff,” “failed to abort the flight when he knew of the cloudy conditions,” and “failed to properly and safely operate the helicopter[,] resulting in a crash.”

The helicopter, notes CNN, collided with a mountain while flying through dense fog and low-hanging cloud cover.

But Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit claims Island Express should have known that Zobayan had a reputation for taking risky decisions in the air.

Kobe Bryant in 2005. Bryant, who spent the entirety of his professional career with the Los Angeles Lakers, is widely regarded as among basketball’s greatest players. Image via Wikimedia Common/U.S. Marines Corps. Public domain.

Her suit states that Island Express “knew or should have known” that Zobayan had previously been cited by the Federal Aviation Administration for violating “the visual flight rules minimums by flying into an area of reduced visibility from weather conditions.”

However, Island Express has since maintained that Bryant—and his daughter, Gianna—had “actual knowledge of all of the circumstances, particular dangers, and an appreciation for the risks involved and the magnitude thereof, and proceeded to encounter a known risk, and voluntarily assumed the risk of the accident, injury, and damages.”

Attorneys for the helicopter operator say they should not be held culpable for what is essentially “an act of god.” says that Island Express refused previous requests for comment.

Arya Zobayan’s brother, Berge, has taken a perceptibly more combative stance against the Bryant family’s lawsuit—in court documents, Berge Zobayan implied the passengers were “directly” responsible for the crash.

“Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility,” Berge Zobayan’s response to the lawsuit says.

While Zobayan’s response may seem callous, L.A.-based trial attorney Tom Lallas told that such filings are standard—and, in this case, likely filed in “an abundance of caution” by lawyers representing Berge.

The Detroit News notes that Christopher Chester, whose wife and daughter died in the same helicopter crash, has also filed lawsuits against Island Express and Ara Zobayan’s estate. The particulars of the complaint, says the News, are similar to those of the Bryant family’s lawsuit.


Helicopter Company Responds to Vanessa Bryant’s Wrongful Death Lawsuit, Claims Victims Knew ‘Risks’

Kobe and Gianna Bryant knew the risks of flying, helicopter company says in legal filing

Man whose wife, daughter died in crash that killed Kobe Bryant sues helicopter owner

Join the conversation!