A federal jury awarded $16 million to Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant, in a lawsuit against Los Angeles County for allegedly distributing photos of the Los Angeles Lakers legend’s crash site. according to Alene Tchekmedyian of the Los Angeles Times.
Another author, Chris Chester, received $15 million in the same lawsuit.
The payments supposedly the LA Sheriff’s Department pays Bryant $2.5 million for emotional distress and $7.5 million for future distress, while the LA County Fire Department owes her $1 million for past distress and $7.5 million for future distress. $5 million for the future.
According to the Times, Bryant cried with his hands clasped in a prayerful position as the verdict was read. She soon left without speaking to reporters. The jury reportedly deliberated for just a few hours after 10 days of depositions.
Part of the difference in payouts was the jury supposedly find the Sheriff’s Department has a practice of sharing deceased persons, while the Fire Department just lacks sufficient training and policies.
Vanessa Bryant’s photo process at the crash site has been ongoing for two years
Bryant originally filed his lawsuit in September 2020, eight months after the helicopter crash that killed her husband, 13-year-old daughter Gianna, Chester’s wife Sarah, daughter Payton and five others. According to a Los Angeles Times report in February, a group of lawmakers took or shared graphic photos of the crash site.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva reportedly ordered deputies to delete the photos, but kept the matter a secret until a complaint was filed. LA County denied that Bryant had any viable emotional distress claim and tried to close the case, but the case eventually made its way to court, where things got ugly and emotional.
Bryant testified on August 10 and testified that he still suffers from panic attacks from having to deal with the existence and distribution of the photos, from the moment he learned of them via CNN:
“I just remember not wanting to react because the girls were in the room,” she testified, her voice rising with emotion. “I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ … And I ran out of the house and I ran to the side of the house so the girls couldn’t see me. I wanted to run… down the block and just scream. I can’t escape my body. I can’t escape what I feel.”
Bryant’s attorney, Luis Lee, reportedly showed jurors a video of an off-duty deputy drinking in a bar and showing pictures to the bartender, who was shaking his head, with another image showing the two men laughing together. Previous files claimed the grotesque behavior continued for weeks, including at a firefighter awards gala.
From the Washington Post:
“The free sharing continued in the following days and weeks and included outrageous conduct such as displaying the photos in a bar while miming dismemberment and displaying the photos with cocktails at an awards gala. One deputy laughed as he shared the photos; another described the remains of the crash victims as ‘hamburgers’ and ‘piles of meat’. ”
In all, Li said photos of Kobe and Gianna were passed around on at least 28 sheriff’s department devices and by at least a dozen firefighters.
LA County reacts to Vanessa Bryant’s verdict
After the trial, a law firm representing the county at the trial released a statement expressing disappointment with the outcome and relief. that Bryant didn’t get the $75 million she was looking for.
“We are grateful for the jury’s hard work in this case. While we disagree with the jury’s conclusions as to county liability, we believe the award money shows that the jurors did not believe the evidence supported the Plaintiffs’ $75 million claim for emotional damages. We will be discussing next steps with our client. In the meantime, we hope the Bryant and Chester families continue to recover from their tragic loss.”
Vanessa Bryant fiercely protected Kobe’s legacy
This wasn’t the only legal action to emerge from the crash, as Bryant also filed a lawsuit against the helicopter involved in the deadly flight and the property of pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash.
In addition, Bryant has persistently done what he can for the legacy of her husband and daughter, including a moving Hall of Fame speech and a “Mambacita” tattoo. She has also taken more aggressive steps, such as accusing certain figures of slander for calling Kobe a rapist and complaining about the premature release of a shoe she designed for Gianna.