A federal jury on Wednesday awarded Vanessa Bryant and another plaintiff $31 million in combined damages over graphic photos taken and shared from the scene of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, their daughter, Gianna, and seven other people.
Vanessa Bryant will receive $16 million.
The jury deliberated for 4 1/2 hours before reaching a verdict in the invasion of privacy case. Vanessa Bryant cried quietly as it was read.
On Friday, Bryant tearfully testified that news of the photos compounded her still-raw grief a month after losing her husband and daughter, and that she still has panic attacks at the thought that they might still be out there.
“I live in fear every day of being on social media and these popping up,” she told jurors. “I live in fear of my daughters being on social media and these popping up.”
The county already had agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a similar case brought by two families whose relatives were killed in the crash. Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester, whose wife, Sarah, and daughter Payton also died, declined to settle.
Chester was awarded $15 million.
The plaintiffs were seeking $75 million in damages.
“We are grateful for the jury’s hard work in this case,” Mira Hashmall, lead outside counsel for Los Angeles County, said in a statement. “While we disagree with the jury’s findings as to the County’s liability, we believe the monetary award shows that jurors didn’t believe the evidence supported the Plaintiffs’ request of $75 million for emotional distress. We will be discussing next steps with our client. Meanwhile, we hope the Bryant and Chester families continue to heal from their tragic loss.”
Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and other parents and players were flying to a girl’s basketball tournament when their chartered helicopter crashed in the Calabasas hills on January 26th, 2020.
Federal safety officials blamed pilot error.
During the trial, Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li played jurors security video of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy drinking at a bar showing the photos to the bartender, who shakes his head in dismay. The lawyer then showed an image of the men laughing together later.
Li described firefighters looking at the phone photos two weeks later at an awards banquet, and showed the jury an animated chart documenting their spread to nearly 30 people.
An attorney for the county defended the taking of the photos as an essential tool for first responders seeking to share information when they thought they might still save lives at the chaotic, dangerous and hard-to-reach crash scene.
Following the verdict, Vanessa Bryant posted a photo of her, her husband and her daughter on her Instagram page with the caption: “All for you! I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!”