Vanessa Bryant awarded $16 million in Kobe Bryant crash photos lawsuit

A jury has awarded the widow of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant $16 million in damages over leaked photographs of the January 2020 helicopter crash site taken by first responders and shared with members of the audience.

Irfan Khan | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

A jury has awarded the widow of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant $16 million in damages over leaked photographs of the January 2020 helicopter crash site taken by first responders and shared with members of the audience.

The nine jurors who returned the unanimous verdict agreed with Vanessa Bryant and her attorneys that deputies and firefighters taking and sharing photos of the remains of Kobe Bryant and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, invaded his privacy and invaded him. brought emotional distress.

Vanessa Bryant and co-plaintiff Chris Chester sued Los Angeles County for unspecified millions of dollars over the photographs, which included graphic images of human remains.

Chester’s wife, Sarah, and daughter, Payton, 13, were among nine people killed when their helicopter crashed north of Los Angeles.

The jury awarded Chester $15 million in damages.

Lawyers for Bryant and Chester argued that both plaintiffs were suffering from undue emotional stress after learning that county employees had taken photos of human remains on their cellphones as ‘memorabilia’ and shared them with colleagues and members of the public.

Closing arguments began on Tuesday, on what would have been Kobe Bryant’s 44th birthday.

On Wednesday, Bryant walked into court dressed in white and holding hands with her eldest daughter, Natalia, and close family friend Sydney Leroux, an Olympic gold medalist and Gianna’s favorite soccer player. She was also joined by Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and his wife.

Bryant endured two weeks of emotional testimony, wiping away tears at times and walking out of the courtroom when graphic or painful evidence was presented.

Bryant testified for more than three hours on Friday, sobbing on the stand as she described the anguish and anger she felt after learning that first responders leaked the footage.

“I felt like I wanted to run around the block and scream,” she told the court, her body shaking with emotion. “I can’t escape my body. I can’t escape how I feel.”

Evidence presented at trial showed a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy shared a photo of Kobe Bryant’s body with a bartender, prompting a formal complaint from another bar patron who witnessed the exchange . Evidence also showed that firefighters exchanged photos at an awards banquet and others shared them with their spouses.

A county attorney said the photos were taken because they were key to assessing the hard-to-reach crash site in the mountains above Malibu, and that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva , demanded that they all be deleted after learning that they had been shared. .

Villanueva admitted in court last week that her department’s policies were insufficient to address the privacy issues at the center of the case. He said there was “no playbook” for first responders using their personal devices to take photos of the crash site.

Villanueva, who is up for re-election this year, also admitted he had no way of confirming whether all of the leaked photos had been deleted.

No photos have appeared publicly, but Vanessa Bryant said she lived in fear that she would ever see them.

The helicopter was heading from Orange County to Gianna’s basketball game at Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks when heavy fog and low visibility doomed the flight.

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