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Family of late basketball star Kobe Bryant awarded nearly $39 million in photos case

Family of late basketball star Kobe Bryant awarded nearly $39 million in photos case
Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other people died in the crash in Calabasas, California, on Jan 26, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County will pay the wife of late basketball star Kobe Bryant nearly US$29 million (S$39 million) to settle a lawsuit over allegations that sheriff officers and firefighters shared gruesome photos of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed Bryant and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna.

Per the terms of the settlement, Vanessa Bryant and her children will receive US$28.85 million from the county, a total that includes US$15 million awarded to her by a federal-court jury in August 2022.

Vanessa had sued the county, alleging invasion of privacy, after accusing members of the sheriff and fire departments of sharing images of the crash in unofficial settings, including to patrons in a bar.

“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” attorney Luis Li 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. We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice.”

Kobe and Gianna were among nine people killed when their helicopter crashed into a Los Angeles-area hillside in foggy weather on the morning of Jan 26, 2020.

The helicopter was on its way to Kobe’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California, at the time of the crash. Kobe was set to coach Gianna’s basketball team.


The National Transportation Safety Board determined that pilot Ara Zobayan’s decision to fly in adverse weather conditions – notably flying into thick clouds – caused him to experience spatial disorientation and ultimately crash in Calabasas, north-west of downtown Los Angeles.

First responders reportedly took more than 100 photos of the crash scene, including the bodies of the decedents, and then shared them mostly among other employees of the county’s sheriff and fire departments.

The lead lawyer representing the county called the settlement “fair and reasonable”.

“We hope Mrs Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss,” Mira Hashmall added.

Bryant was 41 when he died. The Los Angeles Lakers great and 18-time All-Star won five National Basketball Association championships and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2020.

Chris Chester, who lost his wife and daughter in the crash, settled his claims against the county for almost US$20 million in September 2022. 

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