By FRED SHUSTER
Los Angeles County has agreed to pay Vanessa Bryant and three of her daughters nearly $30 million to settle a lawsuit and potential future claims over the sharing of graphic photos taken by first responders at the helicopter crash that killed Bryant’s husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant, and one of their daughters, according to a court filing on Tuesday..
The settlement includes the $15 million a jury awarded Vanessa Bryant in August, with additional funds to settle potential claims from her daughters. The Lakers legend and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among the nine people who perished in the Jan. 26, 2020, crash on a Calabasas hillside.
“We believe the settlement approved by the Board in the Bryant case is fair and reasonable,” Mira Hashmall, lead trial counsel for the county in the case, said in a statement.
“The $28,850,000 settlement includes the verdict awarded by the federal jury in August 2022, and further resolves 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,” she said.
“This settlement now concludes all County-related litigation related to the tragic January 2020 helicopter crash. We hope Ms. Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss.”
Vanessa Bryant and her co-plaintiff, Chris Chester — who lost his wife and daughter in the tragedy — sued for negligence and invasion of privacy in September 2020 and won at trial in Los Angeles federal court in August.
“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Luis Li, Bryant’s attorney, said in a statement.
“She fought for her husband, her daughter, and all those in the community whose deceased family were treated with similar disrespect,” Li said. “We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice.”
The Board of Supervisors agreed to pay Bryant’s family $28.85 million to settle the widow’s lawsuit and possible future claims by Bryant and daughters: Natalia, 20, Bianka, 6, and Capri, 3. The jury in downtown Los Angeles awarded Bryant and Chester $15 million each.
Late last year, the board approved an additional $4.95 million to Chester for the loss of his wife, Sarah, and their 13-year-old daughter Payton.
Attorneys for Chester and Vanessa Bryant argued during the trial that the plaintiffs suffered emotional pain and suffering after learning that personal photos of human remains at the crash scene were snapped and displayed for no good reason to a bartender, attendees of an awards ceremony and sent by a sheriff’s deputy to a colleague while they were playing a video game.
The county did not dispute that some photos were shared with a small number of deputies and firefighters. But defense attorneys maintained that all images taken by first responders were destroyed on orders of the sheriff and fire chief, and no longer exist in any form. The photos never entered the public domain or appeared on the internet, the county insisted.
Along with Chester’s and Bryant’s loved ones, the crash killed Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.
Two other families separately settled with the county over the photos for $1.25 million each. All of the victims’ families reached a settlement with the helicopter company over the crash, but those terms remain confidential.
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