Photos from Kobe Bryant's fatal crash: jury awards $31 million in damages
Sylvie Claire / August 25, 2022
A jury on Wednesday ordered Los Angeles County to pay $31 million in damages, including $16 million to widow Vanessa Bryant, over photos taken by rescue workers at the site of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant.
Sheriff's Office officials as well as firefighters dispatched to the scene of the accident in January 2020 had taken pictures at the scene, including photos of the shredded remains of the legendary basketball player and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who also died in the tragedy.
The civil trial in Los Angeles exposed how some members of the first responders had shown the photos to people outside the case, including a bartender. A sheriff's department officer also sent them to a friend while the two were playing video games.
On the defense side, Los Angeles County argued that the footage never became public and that its top officials were prompt in deleting it from officers' electronic devices.
But during the two-week trial, Vanessa Bryant, the basketball superstar's widow, and Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter also died in the crash, spoke of their constant fear that the images would one day be made public on the Internet.
Both plaintiffs, whose complaints were merged, claimed emotional harm.
The county was ordered Wednesday to pay Vanessa Bryant $16 million and Chris Chester $15 million.
Vanessa Bryant, who cried as the verdict was read, left the courtroom without speaking to reporters. She then posted a photo of Kobe Bryant and their deceased daughter, writing, Anything for you! I love you guys! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi !
Chris Chester's attorney, Jerry Jackson, asked the jury on Tuesday to award both plaintiffs $1 million for each year of their estimated life expectancy, or $40 million for Vanessa Bryant, age 40, and $30 million for Chris Chester, age 48.
Jerry Jackson had called the demands fair and reasonable compensation. There is no amount of money too large to compensate for what they have been through, he said.
Vanessa Bryant's lawyer, Craig Lavoie, said he wanted justice and for those involved to be held accountable. We are here because of intentional conduct: the county violated the constitutional rights of Ms. Bryant and Mr. Chester, he said.
The jury reached its verdict Wednesday after about four and a half hours of deliberations. A verdict handed down on the day Los Angeles celebrates Mamba Day, August 24, or 24/8, the two fetish numbers that Bryant, nicknamed Black Mamba, wore during his 20-year professional career (1996-2016).
Other victims' families were awarded $2.5 million in compensation last year in the same case.
An investigation concluded that the pilot of the helicopter was responsible for the accident, an error of judgment that led to his disorientation in the middle of a thick fog.
The death at 41 years of Kobe Bryant, iconic player of the Los Angeles Lakers and considered one of the best basketball players in history, had caused a strong emotion in the world.