Vanessa Bryant WINS $16m privacy lawsuit against Los Angeles County


Kobe Bryant‘s dead body was unlawfully photographed by officials, a Los Angeles jury has concluded at the end of a two-week invasion of privacy trial brought by his widow Vanessa.

The jury awarded Vanessa Bryant $16 million in compensation, after less than a day deliberating. Her co-defendant Chris Chester, who lost his wife Sarah, 45, and daughter, Payton, 13, in the helicopter crash that killed nine, was awarded $15 million.

Bryant broke down in tears as the verdict was announced. She was comforted by her daughter Natalia, whose 13-year-old sister Gianna also died in the helicopter crash that killed the 41-year-old basketball superstar.

A court reporter for the website Law and Crime said that Bryant turned in her seat to look at the jury, mouthing the words ‘thank you’. She then hugged her lead lawyer, Luis Li.

Vanessa Bryant is seen leaving court on Wednesday after a jury awarded her $16 million in damages in her invasion of privacy trial

Vanessa Bryant is seen leaving court on Wednesday after a jury awarded her $16 million in damages in her invasion of privacy trial

The jury found that sheriff’s deputies and firefighters who rushed to the scene of the January 2020 smash unlawfully snapped pictures of the carnage, including the mangled remains of the Los Angeles Lakers legend and his daughter.

In a minor victory for the firefighters, the jury found that they do not have a custom or practice of sharing photos of deceased people – only that the fire department lacks sufficient training and policies. 

They did conclude, however, that the sheriff’s department has a practice of sharing the pictures from accidents, as well as insufficient training. 

Vanessa Bryant, in white, is seen on Wednesday morning walking into court with her daughter Natalia, 19 (in brown dress) and family friend Sydney Leroux, a soccer player (far left)

Vanessa Bryant, in white, is seen on Wednesday morning walking into court with her daughter Natalia, 19 (in brown dress) and family friend Sydney Leroux, a soccer player (far left) 

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. The pair died in January 2020 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna. The pair died in January 2020 in a helicopter crash in Calabasas

Firefighters work at the scene of the helicopter crash where former NBA basketball star Kobe Bryant died in Calabasas

Firefighters work at the scene of the helicopter crash where former NBA basketball star Kobe Bryant died in Calabasas

Crash seen investigators are seen examining the wreckage of the helicopter

Crash seen investigators are seen examining the wreckage of the helicopter

The sum is less than the $40 million which lawyers said Bryant was entitled to, but more than that received by relatives of other victims – who were last year granted $2.5 million in compensation over the photo-taking. 

Bryant and Chester refused to join their case, and launched their own, resulting in the $31 million payout. 

The sheriff’s department was ordered to pay Bryant $2.5 million for emotional distress already suffered and $7.5 million for future suffering. The fire department must pay her $1 million for past and $5 million for future suffering.

Chester was awarded $1.5 million from the sheriff’s office for past suffering and $7.5 million for future. He was given $1 million for past suffering caused by the fire department, and $5 million for future. 

The civil trial in Los Angeles has heard how some of these first responders showed the photographs to members of the public – including a bartender – while one deputy texted them to a friend as the pair played video games.

In its defense, Los Angeles County said the pictures have never become public and officials have been diligent in efforts to scrub them from devices.

‘To claim privacy and then put all these details in public — it defies logic,’ said Mira Hashmall, a lawyer for the county, in her closing statement. 

‘This is a photographs case but there are no photographs.’ 

But the two-week trial heard how Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter also perished in the crash, live in fear of these photographs surfacing on the internet one day.

The pair both sued for emotional damages over the photos, in suits that have been combined.

Chester’s lawyer on Tuesday said the jury should award each of them a million dollars for every year of their remaining expected life – a figure that would amount to $40 million for 40-year-old Bryant and $30 million for 48-year-old Chester.

Vanessa Bryant is pictured in court on Wednesday, as the jury retired to consider their verdict

Vanessa Bryant is pictured in court on Wednesday, as the jury retired to consider their verdict

Vanessa, dressed in white on Wednesday, told a jury during the two-week trial in LA that she fears images of the crash scene will become public

Vanessa, dressed in white on Wednesday, told a jury during the two-week trial in LA that she fears images of the crash scene will become public

Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter died in the crash, are both suing for emotional damages over the photos, in suits that have been combined

Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter died in the crash, are both suing for emotional damages over the photos, in suits that have been combined

Bryant was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016

Bryant was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016

Attorney Jerry Jackson called the figure ‘a fair and reasonable compensation. You can’t award too much money for what they went through.’

Bryant’s lawyer Craig Lavoie said he was asking for ‘justice and accountability’ for the basketball great – a hero to the city of Los Angeles – and his widow.

‘We’re here because of intentional conduct – the county violated Mrs Bryant and Mr Chester’s constitutional rights,’ Lavoie said, asking the jury to hold the county liable for ‘the constitutional violations of its employees.’

An investigation into the crash found the pilot had probably become disorientated after flying the Sikorsky S-76 into fog.

Bryant is widely recognized as one of the greatest basketball players ever, a figure who became the face of his sport during a glittering two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers.

He was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.



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