Kobe Bryant Crash: LA County Ordered To Pay $16 Million To Bryant’s Widow After Taking Pictures Of Bodies

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A Los Angeles jury found LA County liable for negligence and invasion of privacy on Wednesday and ordered the county to pay Kobe Bryant’s widow $16 million, according to multiple news outlets, after several emergency responders took and shared photos of the bodies of Bryant, his daughter Gianna and others who died in a 2020 helicopter crash.

Vanessa Bryant arrives at federal court to testify Friday in the lawsuit over graphic photos taken … [+] by first responders at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Key Facts

The jury deliberated for just over three hours in the federal civil suit before delivering their unanimous verdict.

Jurors awarded $16 million in damages to Bryant’s widow Vanessa Bryant, along with $15 million to Chris Chester, whose wife Sarah and daughter Peyton were killed, according to the Associated Press and USA Today.

Chester’s lawyer told the jury Tuesday that Chester and Vanessa Bryant should receive $2.5 million for their suffering and an amount between $100,000 and $1 million for each year of the rest of their lives, saying “you can’t award too much money for what they went through.”

Crucial Quote

While testifying, Vanessa Bryant said she lives “in fear every day” of the photos becoming public, and that her surviving daughters may one day see them.

Key Background

Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash in January 2020 in Los Angeles while traveling to a basketball tournament. A review of the accident from the National Transportation Safety Board determined the pilot, Ara Zobayan, was disoriented and believed he was flying upwards, and ignored safety protocols by flying in low visibility when he shouldn’t have. Vanessa Bryant and co-defendant Chester sued Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department, the Los Angeles County fire department, and certain officials, alleging some responders took dozens of photos of the bodies of the crash victims when it was not necessary for investigative purposes to do so, and shared those photos privately. The sharing of the photos was first reported on by the Los Angeles Times. During the trial, which began in August, the county coroner described the horrific sights at the crash scene; most victims had to be scientifically identified, as their appearances were unrecognizable. The photos spread amongst members of the departments and to their spouses, and were shown to others at an awards gala and to a bartender. Deputy Rafael Mejia said he shared the photos with other deputies because “curiosity got the best of us.” Testimony from officers and deputies has been conflicting, with one saying he was ordered to take the photos.

Further Reading

Read Vanessa Bryant’s Lawsuit (New York Times)

A torso, a tattooed arm, ‘just parts:’ Cops took and shared graphic photos of the Kobe Bryant crash site. Then came the cover-up. (Insider)

Kobe Bryant crash photos trial: Jury asked to award millions to Vanessa Bryant, co-plaintiff (ABC7)

Kobe Bryant’s widow says crash photos turned grief to horror (Associated Press)

Vanessa Bryant Is Suing L.A. County Over Kobe Bryant Crash Photos: What to Know (New York Times)

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