Vanessa Bryant Wins $16 Million For Kobe Crash Photos
In response to publically available photos of the scene of the helicopter accident in January 2020 taken by first responders, Vanessa Bryant wins $16 million for Kobe Crash photos.
The nine jurors who delivered the unanimous decision agreed with Vanessa Bryant and her attorneys that deputies and firefighters invading her privacy and causing emotional distress by taking and sharing pictures of the remains of Kobe Bryant and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, caused them both pain.
Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester sued Los Angeles County for undisclosed millions over horrific human remains photos.
The decision, delivered only hours after Los Angeles County's closing arguments, concluded that first responders shared photographs of Chester's body with his family.
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Vanessa and Chester both received $16 million.
Kobe, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna perished in a helicopter accident in Calabasas, California, in January 2020.
Vanessa and Chester, who lost his wife Sarah and 13-year-old daughter Payton, sued Los Angeles County for emotional pain and mental agony.
Vanessa's attorney Luis Li alleged at opening comments this month that the fire captain exchanged cell phone images of the wreckage "for a chuckle" and that there was no formal cause for them to be taken.
"January 26, 2020 will always be Vanessa Bryant's darkest day," he told the jurors.
They took Kobe and Gianna photos as keepsakes. "They salted an open wound."
On the day of the incident, first responders allegedly "walked about the wreckage and snapped photographs of damaged victims."
They photographed charred limbs and flesh. It's shocking.
He said the photographs were shared with persons who had no need to see them.
Li displayed a video of Deputy Joey Cruz showing horrifying collision and Kobe's corpse photos to a bartender.
Vanessa Bryant awarded $16 million over Kobe Bryant crash site photos
Bryant and Chester's attorneys claimed that after discovering that county employees had taken smartphone photos of human remains as "souvenirs" and shared them with coworkers and the general public, both plaintiffs had experienced excessive mental anguish.
On Kobe Bryant's 44th birthday, which was on Tuesday, closing arguments got underway.
On Wednesday, Bryant appeared in court dressed entirely in white while holding the hands of her oldest daughter Natalia and a close family friend who also happens to be Gianna's favorite soccer player, Sydney Leroux, an Olympic gold winner.
Rob Pelinka, the general manager of the Lakers, and his wife also accompanied her.
Two weeks of emotional testimony were put through by Bryant, who sometimes had to wipe away tears and leave the courtroom when gruesome or upsetting material was presented.
Bryant sobbed on the witness stand for more than three hours on Friday as she explained her distress and rage at discovering that first responders had released the pictures.
She said before the court, her body trembling with emotion, "I felt like I wanted to go down the street and shout.
I am unable to leave my body. I am unable to hide how I feel."
A bar customer who observed the interaction filed a formal complaint after learning that a Los Angeles County sheriff's officer had shown a picture of Kobe Bryant's corpse to a bartender.
Additionally, there was evidence that during an awards luncheon, firemen exchanged images with one other and with their wives.
The images were taken because they were necessary for evaluating the hard-to-reach accident scene in the mountains above Malibu, according to a county attorney.
After finding that the photos had been shared, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva asked that they all be destroyed.
In court last week, Villanueva acknowledged that his department's regulations were inadequate to address the privacy issues at issue.
There was "no rulebook," he said, for first responders using their own cameras to take pictures of the collision scene.
In addition, Villanueva, who is up for re-election this year, said he had no way of knowing whether all of the images that had been shared had been erased.
Although no images have been made public, Vanessa Bryant said that she always fears coming across them.
Heavy fog and poor visibility threatened the helicopter's journey from Orange County to Gianna's basketball game at Kobe Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.