Jury awards plaintiffs $31 million in lawsuit over Kobe Bryant crash photos

(CNN) — After more than three hours of deliberation, a federal jury awarded $31 million in damages after finding Los Angeles County liable for violating the constitutional rights of vanessa bryant and co-plaintiff Christopher Chester, whose wife and daughter were also among the victims of the unfortunate helicopter crash in January 2020.

Vanessa Bryant received $16 million in damages and Chris Chester received $15 million. Immediately after the verdict was read, Bryant hugged her attorneys. As she continued to cry, Bryant tearfully hugged her daughter Natalia from her in the front row. She left the courthouse without making a statement.

At the center of the trial were photos taken by Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters that included not only the wreckage of the helicopter, but also the mangled bodies of the victims, including NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, Chester’s wife, Sarah, their daughter Payton, and five other people.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the pilot of the helicopter exceeded the limits of the flight rules in bad weather before crashing into a hillside in Calabasas, California.

Bryant and Chester argued that the photos of their loved ones caused emotional distress and violated their privacy. Each testified that they lived in fear that the photos might come to light, despite Los Angeles County’s claim that each image has been destroyed.

Jurors heard graphic testimony for 11 days. During the trial, witnesses included an official who said he showed graphic images of the scene while at a bar, another official who said he shared photos while playing a video game, an official who sent dozens of photos to someone he did not know and a member of the fire department who showed the images to other members of staff during the cocktail party at an award ceremony.

The only plaintiff’s claim that was not supported by juries was the finding that the county fire department was not responsible for any long-standing widespread practice or custom of taking unlawful photographs. The sheriff’s department was found responsible for the same problem.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an invasion of privacy bill called the “Kobe Bryant Act” in September 2020 that makes it illegal for first responders to share photos of a dead person at a crime scene “for any purpose that not be for an official law enforcement purpose.” The misdemeanor is punishable by up to $1,000 per offense.

Coincidentally, Los Angeles has named Wednesday, August 24, “Kobe Bryant Day” to honor the Los Angeles Lakers star’s two jersey numbers, 8 and 24, which he wore during his NBA career. The Lakers have retired both numbers.

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Jury awards plaintiffs $31 million in lawsuit over Kobe Bryant crash photos

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