Vanessa Bryant has won her lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff and Fire Departments over graphic photos taken of the helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna and seven others.
After 11 days of testimony, the jury awarded $31 million in damages to Vanessa Bryant and co-plaintiff Christopher Chester, who each lost a spouse and daughter in the helicopter crash in January 2020, CNN reports.
Mira Hashmall, attorney for Los Angeles County argued that the trial was a “pictures case with no pictures,” noting that the gruesome photos of human remains have never actually been seen by the public — or even the plaintiffs, Bryant and Chester. “No pictures is good. No pictures means no public dissemination… no risk of other people making mistakes,” Hashmall said in closing arguments of the trial.
Bryant’s attorney Luis Li argued Wednesday (August 24) that the actions of the county in taking such photos were reckless and inhumane and caused emotional distress. “They poured salt into an unhealable wound and that’s why we’re all here today,” Li said.
As we earlier reported, a sheriff’s deputy shared the graphic photos with random people at a bar two days after Kobe and Gianna died in January 2020. “County employees exploited the accident,” Li said during an August 10 hearing. “They took and shared pictures of Kobe and Gianna as souvenirs…They poured salt in an unhealable wound.”
Li added, first responders “walked around the wreckage and took pictures of broken bodies from the helicopter crash. They took close-ups of limbs, of burnt flesh. It shocks the conscience.”
Bryant and Chester have argued that Los Angeles County “invaded their privacy and inflicted emotional distress by not properly containing the spread of the photos which, according to witness testimony, show not just helicopter wreckage but the mangled bodies of the victims.” Their attorneys asked the jury for damages of up to $42.5 million for Bryant and $32.5 million for Chester.
In September 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an invasion-of-privacy bill called the Kobe Bryant Act that makes it illegal for first responders to share photos of a dead person at a crime scene “for any purpose other than an official law enforcement purpose.” The misdemeanor crime is punishable by up to $1,000 per violation.
Coincidentally, Los Angeles has named today as “Kobe Bryant Day” to honor the Los Angeles Lakers star’s two jersey numbers, 8 and 24, that he wore during his NBA career; the Lakers have retired both numbers.