Los Angeles (CABC) – A federal jury on Wednesday ordered Los Angeles County to pay $31 million in damages for the actions of deputies and firefighters who took and shared horrific photos from the site of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. other people.
Compensation was awarded to Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, and co-plaintiff Chris Chester, whose wife Sarah and 13-year-old daughter Payton died in a Calabasas crash on January 26, 2020.
Vanessa Bryant was awarded $16 million and Chris Chester $15 million.
The jury deliberated for 4½ hours before reaching its verdict. Vanessa Bryant cried softly while reading it.
Chester and Bryant sued the district in federal court for negligence and invasion of privacy over photos of human remains taken at the scene and shared by first responders.
Bryant and Chester claimed with psychological distress at the idea that one day in the future, these photos would appear in public.
Bryant’s attorneys did not give jurors a dollar amount they thought their client was worth, but Chester’s attorney gave them proposed guidelines that would mean tens of millions for each plaintiff.
After reading the sentences, Bryant and Chester hugged in the courtroom. She also hugged her lawyer.
Bryant did not speak after leaving court.
She later posted on Instagram a picture of her, Kobe and Gianna with the caption: “All for you! Love you! Justice for Kobe and Gigi! #Betonyourself #MambaDay 8-24-22 #MambaMentality.”
Along with Chester and Bryant’s loved ones, the accident killed Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and pilot Ara Zebian, 50.
Two other families settled separately with the county over the photos for $1.25 million each. All the families of the victims have reached a settlement with the helicopter company over the accident, but these terms remain confidential.
For 10 days, jurors heard testimony from Los Angeles County firefighters and sheriffs — some accused of taking the photos, others of receiving them.
The district’s lead attorney argued during her summary that the photos had not appeared in public in the two-and-a-half years since the tragedy, proving that they were permanently deleted.
“This is a photo case, but there are no photos,” the attorney told jurors in Los Angeles federal court. “There is a simple fact that cannot be ignored – there has been no public publication.”
Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Lewis Lee, told jurors that the close-up photos had no official or investigative purpose, and were just “visual chatter” shared out of outrageous curiosity.
District attorney C. Mira Hashmol during the trial that the photographs were a necessary tool for assessing the situation.
She acknowledged that she should not share it with everyone who saw it. But she emphasized that the photos never came out in public, and were never seen by prosecutors. She said this meant that Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other officials took decisive and effective action when ordering those who had the photos to delete them.
Los Angeles County provided the following statement from Hashmall, its lead outside attorney in the case:
“We are grateful for the jury’s hard work in this case. While we do not agree with the jury’s findings regarding the district’s liability, we believe the prize money shows that the jurors did not believe the evidence supports the plaintiffs’ request for $75 million for emotional ordeal reasons We will discuss next steps with our clients. In the meantime, we hope that the Bryant and Chester families will continue to recover from their tragic loss.”
The jury returned its verdict on Kobe Bryant’s Day, which is celebrated on August 24 because he uses both his jerseys – the 8th and the 24th – the day after his birthday. Tuesday will be Kobe’s 44th birthday.
The City News Service and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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