Vanessa Bryant wins $28.5m payout over Kobe helicopter crash photos

‘I don’t ever want to see these photographs. I want to remember them as they were,’ Vanessa Bryant says

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Wednesday 01 March 2023 11:33 GMT
Vanessa Bryant Settles Helicopter Crash Photos Lawsuit For $28.85M

Vanessa Bryant has agreed to a $28.5m settlement in her lawsuit with Los Angeles County over photographs of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband, NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and one of their daughters.

The settlement includes $15m that Ms Bryant was awarded after a civil trial last August, as well as extra funds to settle any potential claims from her daughters, according to The New York Times.

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.

Ms Bryant’s lawyers 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.

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.

Now The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay Bryant’s family almost $30m to settle Ms Bryant’s claim, and any future claims by Natalia, 20, Bianka, 6, and Capri, 3.

“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Luis Li, Ms Bryant’s lawyer, said in a statement to the newspaper.

“She fought for her husband, her daughter, and all those in the community whose deceased family were treated with similar disrespect. We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice.”

During the high-profile civil case, Los Angeles County sheriff’s 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.

The Los Angeles 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.

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