The $31 million award could settle Vanessa Bryant’s claim that Los Angeles County first responders inappropriately took and circulated pictures from the 2020 helicopter crash that killed basketball legend Kobe Bryant and eight others.
A Los Angeles jury has awarded more than $31 million in damages to Vanessa Bryant and co-plaintiff Christopher Chester, both of whom claimed that first responders inappropriately shared pictures of the aftermath of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed basketball superstar Kobe Bryant and eight others.
According to CNN, the jury awarded Bryant $16 million in damages, while Chester received $15 million.
As LegalReader.com has reported before, Bryant and Chester had filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County alleging that deputies and medical personnel had taken and shared “close-up” pictures of the helicopter crash victims.
During Bryant’s invasion of privacy trial, which began on August 10, attorney Luis Li said that the photographs taken at the crash scene by a fire captain and deputy were “visual gossip” viewed “for a laugh” and with no official purpose.
“They were shared by deputies playing video games,” Li told the court. “They were shared repeatedly with people who had absolutely no reason to receive them.”
Mira Hashmall, the leading outside counsel for Los Angeles County, released a separate statement shortly after the jury announced its verdict.
“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,” Hashmall said. “We will be discussing next steps with our client. Meanwhile, we hope the Bryant and Chester families continue to heal from their tragic loss.”
The federal jury, says CNN, found that the Sheriff’s and Fire Departments “lacked proper policies and training, which caused the violation of rights.”
CNN notes that the jurors considered that first responders took not only pictures of the helicopter wreckage, but photographs of the “mangled” corpses of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Chester’s wife and daughter, and the other five victims.
Bryant and Chester alleged that the improper circulation of these photographs caused emotional distress and violated their rights to privacy.
While neither Bryant nor Chester ever saw the pictures, they claimed that they lived in fear that the photographs might one day surface and become easily accessible by the public.
The jury trial took place over 11 days, in which jurors heard testimony from a deputy who said that he showed pictures of the crash site inside a bar, another deputy who shared pictures while playing video games, a deputy who sent dozens of photographs to somebody he had never met, and a fire department official who showed the images to other personnel during an awards ceremony cocktail hour.