Vanessa Bryant Awarded $16 Million by Federal Jury for Kobe Bryant Crash Photos

LA County must also pay Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter were killed in the crash, $15 million

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A federal jury on Wednesday awarded $31 million to Vanessa Bryant, widow of Kobe Bryant, and a man whose wife and daughter were also killed in a 2020 helicopter crash after sheriff’s deputies shared graphic photos taken by firefighters at the scene.

Los Angeles County will have to pay $16 million to Bryant, who lost both her Lakers star husband and their daughter Gianna, and $15 million to Chris Chester, who lost his wife Sarah and daughter Payton.

The plaintiffs said sheriff’s deputies and firefighters took graphic photos of the helicopter crash scene that killed Bryant, his daughter, and seven others, then shared them in social settings. Lawyers argued that the images violated their clients’ rights to privacy and inflicted emotional distress.

The 11-day civil trial ended with the jury deliberating for just four hours.

The jury of nine men and women found Los Angeles County liable not for the crash itself, but for deputies taking photos of family remains, and later showing them to others at a social event.

Lawyers for the county said first-responders had legitimate reasons to take the photos, like determining the size of the site and need for resources. They argued that since the photos were never publish or broadcast, and never seen by the victims’ families, that there should be no jury award.

Attorneys for Bryant and Chester said it’s not known how far the images traveled, and that the county did not thoroughly investigate their spread; at least one firefighter who received the photos was never identified. Jurors needed to determine that the county employees did not have the policies and training to prevent employees from sharing the photos.