On Tuesday, February 28, 2023, Los Angeles County agreed to a settlement with Vanessa Bryant, the wife of late basketball star Kobe Bryant, in a lawsuit concerning photos shared by Los Angeles County Sheriff officers and Los Angeles County firefighters of the helicopter crash that killed Bryant and his daughter, Gianna Bryant.
Kobe, Gianna, and seven other people died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California. In the aftermath of the crash, Los Angeles County Sheriff officers and Los Angeles County firefighters allegedly took photos of the accident scene and then shared those photos with “colleagues in settings that had nothing to do with investigating the accident.” The Sheriff’s Department later admitted that there was “no investigatory reason for deputies to be taking pictures of the victims’ remains.” Vanessa’s complaint alleged that Sheriff Alex Villanueva “did not inform the families, initiate an investigation, or inspect the deputies’ phones to determine whether and how the photos had been shared” after he learned that his deputies had taken and shared the photos. On February 27 and 28, 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported on the photos.
Vanessa sued Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the Los Angeles County Fire Department on October 19, 2020, alleging invasion of privacy. In August 2022, a federal jury awarded Vanessa $15 million after finding that the deputies and firefighters violated her privacy and caused emotional distress. The $28.85 million settlement between Los Angeles County and Vanessa includes the $15 million jury award. An attorney for Los Angeles County indicated that the settlement covers “all outstanding issues related to pending legal claims in state court, future claims by the Bryant Children, and other costs, with each party responsible for its respective attorneys’ fees.”
Luis Li, Vanessa’s attorney, stated: “Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct.” Li further stated that “[Vanessa] fought for her husband, her daughter, and all those in the community whose deceased family were treated with similar disrespect.”
Family of late basketball star Kobe Bryant awarded nearly $29 million in photos case, Reuters (February 28, 2023)
Vanessa Bryant v. County of Los Angeles et al (Case No. 2:2020cv09582)
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