LA County must pay Kobe Bryant’s widow Vanessa $16m over crash photos, jury decides - GulfToday

LA County must pay Kobe Bryant’s widow Vanessa $16m over crash photos, jury decides


Kobe Bryant.

Los Angeles County must pay Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, $16m over graphic photos taken by police and fire officials at the scene of the fatal helicopter crash that killed the basketball great, a jury has ruled.

The Los Angeles Lakers legend, Gianna Bryant and the other seven victims died in the crash on 26 January 2020 when the helicopter came down as they flew from Orange County to a basketball tournament.

The jury also ruled that the county must pay $15m to fellow plaintiff Christopher Chester, an Orange county financial adviser, who lost his wife Sarah, and their 13-year-old daughter Payton, in the crash.

The jury returned their verdict, which by coincidence came on Kobe Bryant Day in the city, after around four-and-a-half hours of deliberations on Wednesday.

Ms Bryant’s lawyers have told the jury in the case that in the days after the accident, police and fire officials employed by the county showed off photos of the crash site that included the bodies of the victims.

Ms Bryant and fellow plaintiff Christopher Chester have not seen the photos but were suing the county for $75m for emotional distress and the threat that they will one day become public.


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Also killed in the crash were John Altobelli; his wife, Keri Altobelli; their 14-year-old daughter Alyssa Altobelli; coach Christina Mauser; and the pilot, Ara Zobayan.

The families of Mauser and the Altobellis sued over the photos and settled with Los Angeles County last November for $1.25m each.

Deputy Joey Cruz told the court that he had shown photos, including those of human remains, to a bartender in Norwalk, California, just two days after the crash.

Deputy Cruz admitted there was no legitimate reason for him to have the photos but admitted also showing them to an adult niece and sending them to another deputy.

He was initially suspended for 10 days but appealed it and received a two-day suspension with no pay, and three days of paid training.

A Los Angeles County firefighter showed off the photos during the cocktail hour at an award ceremony a month after the accident, a witness told the trial.

Luella Weireter, the wife of an LA firefighter, said that the incident happened at the Radio and Television News Association of Southern California’s Golden Mike awards in February 2020.

She told the jury that she saw LA County firefighter Tony Imbrenda share photos of Bryant’s remains and other images with people at the event.

Ms Bryant told the court that more than two years after the fatal accident that killed seven others, she still suffers panic attacks that photos of the bodies of her late husband and 13-year-old Gianna will publicly surface.

“I live in fear. I live in fear every day of seeing on social media and having these images pop up,” she testified.

“I don’t ever want to see these photographs. I want to remember them as they were,” she said.

And she added that she felt that she felt betrayed by county officials in the wake of the accident that shattered her family.

“I expected them to have more compassion...respect,” Ms Bryant testified. “My husband and my daughter deserve dignity.”

During closing statements, a lawyer for LA County reportedly argued that Ms Bryant was “out for revenge” because of her grief at the loss of her husband and daughter.

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