The widow of Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Byrant, was granted $16 million as part of a $31 million jury verdict on Wednesday against Los Angeles County for deputies and firefighters sharing graphic photographs of the NBA star, his 13-year-old daughter, and other people who died in a helicopter crash in 2020.
The nine jurors all concurred with Vanessa Bryant and her counsel that the images violated her privacy and caused her emotional anguish. She sobbed quietly while the verdict was read to her.
Vanessa Byrant LA County Case
The jury deliberated for 4 1/2 hours before making a verdict on Kobe Bryant Day, which is celebrated in Los Angeles on August 24 because it depicts his jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — and is the day after his birthday. He would have been 44 years old on Tuesday.
Vanessa Bryant posted a photo of herself with her husband and daughter on Instagram after the verdict. “All for you!” the caption read. “I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!”
Outside the courtroom, an attorney for the county declined to comment on the verdict. Most of the LA County Sheriff's and Fire Department workers posted the photos, including those who were playing video games and attending an awards ceremony. Additionally, some of their spouses and, in one instance, a bartender at a bar where a deputy was drinking, witnessed them.
During the 11-day trial, Vanessa Bryant testified emotionally that learning about the photos added to her still-unfolding grief one month after the deaths of her husband and daughter and that she still experiences panic attacks when she considers the possibility that they might be out there. “I live in fear every day of being on social media and these popping up,” she testified. “I live in fear of my daughters being on social media and these popping up.”
Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter was also among the nine people killed in the crash, received $15 million in compensation. “We’re grateful for a jury and a judge who gave us a fair trial,” said Chester’s lawyer Jerry Jackson.
Chester's attorney gave jurors suggested guidelines that would have translated to tens of millions of dollars for each plaintiff, whereas Vanessa Bryant's attorneys did not provide jurors with a dollar amount they thought their client deserved.
The attorney and Vanessa Bryant declined to comment outside court on Wednesday. She climbed into an SUV surrounded by TV cameras and dozens of reporters.
According to Vanessa Bryant's attorney Luis Li, the close-up pictures were circulated as "visual gossip" out of a macabre curiosity and had no official or investigative motive.
J. Mira Hashmall, the county attorney, said during the trial that the photographs were crucial for evaluating the situation. She acknowledged that not everyone who viewed them needed to know about them.
She emphasised, however, that neither the plaintiffs nor the public had ever seen the photographs. She said that Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other officials had taken decisive and effective action when they instructed individuals in possession of the images to delete them.
Suggested Reading: Vanessa Bryant Sues LA County For Sharing Images From Kobe Bryant Crash
On January 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant, a former Lakers player, five-time NBA champion, and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was travelling to a youth basketball game with his daughter Gianna and seven other people when the helicopter they were riding in crashed into hills in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles.
The tragedy was attributed to a pilot mistake by federal safety inspectors.