A federal jury on Wednesday awarded Vanessa Bryant and another plaintiff $31 million in combined damages as a result of graphic images posted online from the scene of the 2020 accident that claimed the lives of seven other people in addition to her husband, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, and their daughter, Gianna.
The sum of $16 million will be awarded to Vanessa Bryant.
“January 26th, 2020, was the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life. The county made it much worse,” Vanessa Bryant’s attorney Luis Li told jurors in his opening statement earlier this month. “They poured salt in an open wound and rubbed it in.”
Two families whose relatives were killed in the collision filed a similar lawsuit, and the county already agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle it. Chris Chester, whose wife Sara and daughter Payton tragically passed away, and Vanessa Bryant turned down an agreement.
$15 million was granted to Chris Chester.
On January 26, 2020, a rented helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and other parents and players crashed in the Calabasas hills while en route to a girl's basketball tournament.
Pilot error was attributed by federal safety officials.
Li showed security footage to the jury during the trial of an off-duty sheriff's officer drinking at a pub and displaying the pictures to the bartender, who shook his head in shock. The attorney then displayed a picture of the guys laughing together in the future.
At an awards banquet two weeks later, Li recalled firefighters glancing at the phone pictures, and she showed the judges an interactive chart showing how they had spread to over 30 people.
Taking the pictures, according to a county attorney, was necessary for first responders to exchange information when they believed they may still save lives at the chaotic, hazardous, and difficult-to-reach crash scene.
It was not immediately known if L.A. County would appeal the verdict.