A jury ordered Los Angeles County to pay $31 million in damages to Kobe Bryant’s widow and a co-plaintiff Wednesday over graphic photos of the helicopter crash that killed the basketball star.
Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters who rushed to the scene of the January 2020 crash snapped pictures of the carnage, including the mangled remains of the Los Angeles Lakers legend and his 13-year-old daughter.
The civil trial in Los Angeles heard how some of these first responders showed the photographs to members of the public — including a bartender — while one deputy texted them to a friend as the pair played video games.
In its defense, Los Angeles County said the pictures have never become public and officials have been diligent in efforts to scrub them from devices.
But the two-week trial heard how Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter also perished in the crash, live in fear of these photographs surfacing on the internet one day.
The pair both sued for emotional damages over the photos, in suits that have been combined.
The county was ordered to pay $16 million to Bryant, and $15 million to Chester.
Chester’s lawyer on Tuesday had called for compensation to be calculated based on the two plaintiffs’ respective remaining life expectancies.
He had asked for $40 million for 40-year-old Bryant, and $30 million for 48-year-old Chester.
“You can’t award too much money for what they went through,” said attorney Jerry Jackson.
Bryant’s lawyer Craig Lavoie said he was asking for “justice and accountability” for the basketball great — a hero to the city of Los Angeles — and his widow.
“We’re here because of intentional conduct — the county violated Mrs. Bryant and Mr. Chester’s constitutional rights,” Lavoie said, asking the jury to hold the county liable for “the constitutional violations of its employees.”
Jurors in downtown Los Angeles reached their verdict after roughly four and a half hours of deliberations.
Relatives of other victims were last year granted $2.5 million in compensation over the photo-taking.
An investigation into the crash found the pilot had probably become disorientated after flying the Sikorsky S-76 into fog.
Bryant is widely recognized as one of the greatest basketball players ever, a figure who became the face of his sport during a glittering two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers.
He was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.