Kobe Bryant’s family to get $28.5m from LA in photo case
Deal resolves claims related to first responders sharing photos of the fatal US helicopter crash that killed nine, including Bryant.
The family of the late Kobe Bryant has agreed to a $28.5m 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, according to attorneys and court filings.
The figure includes a newly agreed upon payment from the county of $13.5m along with the $15m 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 issued Tuesday. “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 National Basketball Association (NBA) champion and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was travelling with his daughter 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 January 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 the images might still be out there and her daughters might someday see them online.
The verdict in her favour was erroneously read as $16m in court, but was later amended to $15m.
Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the crash itself.
Chris Chester, Vanessa Bryant’s co-plaintiff at the trial, was also awarded $15m at trial, and reached his own settlement with the county in September for nearly $5m more.