Kobe Bryant family reaches $28.8M settlement in lawsuit over crash photos
(CNN) — Vanessa Bryant has reached a nearly $29 million agreement with Los Angeles County to settle a lawsuit over photos that were taken at the helicopter crash that killed her husband, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, her daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others.
The settlement caps several years of litigation related to the January 2020 helicopter crash on a Calabasas, California, hillside and photos that circulated in its aftermath.
“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Luis Li, an attorney representing Bryant, said in a statement to CNN. “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.”
The settlement comes after a federal jury in August 2022 found the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Fire departments liable for infringing on the constitutional rights of Bryant and her co-plaintiff Christopher Chester for taking and sharing gruesome photos of the helicopter crash that left nine people dead.
The photos included not just wreckage of the helicopter but close-up images of the mangled bodies of those killed.
Bryant and Chester argued that the photos of their loved ones caused emotional distress and violated their privacy. Each testified to living in fear the photos may surface, despite the county’s assertion the pictures had been destroyed.
The jury awarded Chester $15 million in damages and Bryant $16 million, which was later reduced to $15 million due to clerical error, according to Bryant’s attorney.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in September 2022 agreed to pay an additional $4.95 million to Chester, who lost his wife Sarah and 13-year-old daughter Payton in the helicopter crash.
Mira Hashmall, lead trial counsel for Los Angeles County, called the recent settlement with Bryant “fair and reasonable.”
“The $28,850,000 settlement includes the verdict awarded by the federal jury in August 2022, and further resolves all outstanding issues related to pending legal claims in state court, future claims by the Bryant children, and other costs, with each party responsible for its respective attorneys’ fees,” Hashmall said in a statement.
Bianka Bella Bryant, and Capri Kobe Bryant, the youngest daughters of the Bryant family, were named in the lawsuit, along with their mother.
“We hope Ms. Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss,” Hashmall added.