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Verdicts & Settlements

Vanessa Bryant Reaches $29m Settlement with Los Angeles County Over Helicopter Crash Photos

— March 1, 2023

The settlement resolves the Bryant family’s years-long legal battle against Los Angeles County.

Vanessa Bryant has reached a $29 million settlement with Los Angeles County, following allegations that first responders took and shared inappropriate pictures of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, basketball legend Kobe Bryant, and her daughter, Gianna Bryant.

According to CNN, the settlement resolves several years of litigation.

“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Bryant attorney Luis Li in a statement. “She fought for her husband, her daughter, and all those in the community whose deceased family were treated with similar disrespect. We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice.”

CNN notes that the settlement was announced after a federal jury in August 2022 found the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department liable for infringing Bryant and co-plaintiff Christopher Chester’s constitutional rights.

First responders, including sheriff’s deputies and firefighters, purportedly captured images showing not only the aftermath of the helicopter crash but close-up photographs of the victims’ corpses.

Li told jurors that the close-up pictures served no legitimate purpose and were, in effect, “visual gossip” shared out of “gruesome curiosity.”

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.

In their complaint, Bryant and Chester alleged that the photographs—which were never circulated in the public domain—caused significant emotional distress and violated their rights to privacy.

Both Bryant and Chester said that they lived in constant fear that the photographs might someday surface, even though Los Angeles County officials said that every copy had been deleted or otherwise destroyed.

The jury, writes CNN, awarded Chester $15 million in damages for his claim and $16 million to Bryant.

Several months later, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay an additional $2.95 million to Chester, whose 13-year-old daughter was killed in the crash.

Mira Hashmall, an attorney for Los Angeles County, said that the more recent settlement with Bryant was “fair and reasonable.”

“The $28,850,000 settlement includes the verdict awarded by the federal jury in August 2022, and further resolves all outstanding issues related to pending legal claims in state court, future claims by the Bryant children, and other costs, with each party responsible for its respective attorneys’ fees,” Hashmall told CNN.

CNN notes that Bianka Bella Bryant and Capri Kobi Bryant, the youngest daughters of Vanessa and Kobe Bryant, were also named as co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Hashmall said that she hopes the settlement helps the family continuing healing.

“We hope Ms. Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss,” she said.


Kobe Bryant family settles photo lawsuit for $28.5 million

Vanessa Bryant reaches nearly $29 million settlement with Los Angeles County in lawsuit over Kobe Bryant crash photos

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