A federal jury on Wednesday awarded Vanessa Bryant and another plaintiff $31 million in combined damages stemming from graphic photos taken and shared from the scene of the 2020 crash that killed her husband, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, their daughter, Gianna, and seven other people.
Vanessa Bryant will receive $16 million.
“January 26th, 2020, was the worst day of Vanessa Bryant’s life. The county made it much worse,” Vanessa Bryant’s attorney Luis Li told jurors in his opening statement earlier this month. “They poured salt in an open wound and rubbed it in.”
The county already agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a similar case brought by two families whose relatives were killed in the crash. Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester, whose wife, Sara, and daughter Payton also died, declined to settle.
Chester was awarded $15 million.
Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and other parents and players were flying to a girl’s basketball tournament when their chartered helicopter crashed in the Calabasas hills on January 26th, 2020.
Federal safety officials blamed pilot error.
During the trial, Li played jurors security video of an off-duty sheriff’s deputy drinking at a bar showing the photos to the bartender, who shakes his head in dismay. The lawyer then showed an image of the men laughing together later.
Li described firefighters looking at the phone photos two weeks later at an awards banquet, and showed the jury an animated chart documenting their spread to nearly 30 people.
An attorney for the county defended the taking of the photos as an essential tool for first responders seeking to share information when they thought they might still save lives at the chaotic, dangerous, and hard-to-reach crash scene.
It was not immediately known if L.A. County would appeal the verdict.