Vanessa Bryant and her daughters will receive $28.8 million from Los Angeles County to settle a lawsuit over gruesome photos taken by first
responders at the site of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed NBA star Kobe Bryant, the couple’s daughter Gianna, and seven others.
The final settlement agreement reached Tuesday includes a $15 million jury award Bryant won in federal court last year, for her lawsuit against the county. The additional amount settles potential future claims by her daughters.
“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Luis Li, Bryant’s attorney, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
“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,” Li added.
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In August 2022, a federal jury in Los Angeles awarded Bryant $16 million in the trial over the leaked crash photos. The amount was later lowered to $15 million because of a court error.
Mira Hashmall, lead outside counsel for the county, called Tuesday’s settlement agreement “fair and reasonable.” Hashmall noted that the county’s Board of Supervisors had already signed off on the agreement, but a federal judge must give it final approval.
“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.
Co-plaintiff Chris Chester was awarded $15 million in the case, after losing his wife Sarah and 13-year-old daughter Payton in the crash.
Bryant and Chester filed separate lawsuits, but a federal judge ruled to combine the two claims.
Both Bryant and Chester alleged they suffered emotional pain after first responders snapped and passed around graphic photos taken after the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas on Jan. 26, 2020, killing a total of nine people.
Attorney Li said during the trial that first responders shared the pictures “as souvenirs,” adding that the disturbing photos showed “broken bodies, close-ups of limbs and burnt flesh.”
During the trial, Vanessa Bryant gave tearful testimony about living in fear that the pictures will end up on the internet.
“I’m worried about any photographs that might identify my husband and daughter becoming public,” she told jurors.