Kobe Bryant family settles photo lawsuit for $28.5 million
March 1, 2023 By Andrew Dalton, The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The family of the late Kobe Bryant has agreed to a US$28.5 million settlement with Los Angeles County to resolve the remaining claims in a lawsuit over deputies and firefighters sharing grisly photos of the NBA star, his 13-year-old daughter and other victims killed in a 2020 helicopter crash, attorneys and court filings said Tuesday.
The figure includes a newly agreed upon payment from the county of US$13.5 million along with the US$15 million a federal jury awarded Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, at a trial in August.
The agreement resolves any future claims by Bryant’s three surviving daughters, related issues pending in state court, and other costs. A proposed settlement order, which a judge must approve, was filed Tuesday in federal court.
“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Bryant’s attorney Luis Li said in a statement. “She fought for her husband, her daughter, and all those in the community whose deceased family were treated with similar disrespect.”
Mira Hashmall, the attorney representing LA County, called the statement “fair and reasonable” adding, “We hope Ms. Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss.”
Kobe Bryant, the former Lakers star, five-time NBA champion and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was traveling with Gianna and seven others to a youth basketball game when the helicopter they were aboard crashed into hills in Calabasas west of Los Angeles on Jan. 26, 2020.
Deputies and firefighters responding to the crash scene shot phone photos of the bodies and the wreckage, which Hashmall argued at trial were an essential part of assessing the situation.
But the pictures were shared, mostly between employees of the county sheriff’s and fire departments, including by some who were playing video games and attending an awards banquet. They were also seen by some of their spouses and in one case by a bartender at a bar where a deputy was drinking.
Li told jurors that the close-up photos had no official or investigative purpose, and were mere “visual gossip” shared out of a gruesome curiosity.
Hashmall argued that the sheriff acted swiftly and appropriately when he ordered the photos deleted.
Vanessa Bryant tearfully testified during the 11-day trial 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 and her daughters might someday see them online.
The verdict in her favour was erroneously read as US$16 million in court, but was later amended to US$15 million.
Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the crash itself.
Chris Chester, Vanessa Bryant’s co-plaintiff at the trial, was also awarded US$15 million at trial, and reached his own settlement with the county in September for nearly US$5 million more.
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