Vanessa Bryant and Christopher Chester Awarded $31 Million In Lawsuit Over Helicopter Crash Photos

After more than three hours of deliberation, a federal jury awarded $31 million in damages to Vanessa Bryant and Christopher Chester.

After the verdict was read, Bryant hugged her attorneys and tearfully embraced her daughter Natalia in the front row. She left the courthouse without making a statement, but did post a picture of her, Kobe Bryant and their daughter Gianna on Instagram with the caption: “All for you! I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!”

The federal jury found the sheriff’s and fire departments liable for violating the plaintiffs’ rights.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined the helicopter pilot pushed the limits of bad weather flying rules before he crashed into a hillside.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that makes it illegal for first responders to share photos of dead people due to the incident, which garnered worldwide attention.

The county attorney argued that the trial is a “pictures case with no pictures” noting that the gruesome photos of human remains have never actually been seen by the public – or even the plaintiffs.

“No pictures is good. No pictures means no public dissemination … no risk of other people making mistakes,” Hashmall, the county attorney, said in closing arguments of the trial.

During closing arguments, attorneys for Los Angeles County sought to separate Vanessa Bryant’s emotional testimony from the legal issues the jury must consider. They argued first responders taking photos did not violate Bryant’s rights.

Jurors considered whether a deputy’s sharing of photos containing human remains with another deputy while playing the video game “Call of Duty” “shocked the conscience”, a legal threshold the jury must consider in rendering its verdict.

The attorneys for Bryant argued the photos could still exist because one of the deputies Air Dropped them to a firefighter that hasn’t been identified. They also argued the county inadequately investigated the incident, which allowed for photos of human remains to potentially surface in the future.

For more on this story, please consider these sources:

  1. Vanessa Bryant awarded $16 million over photos from Kobe Bryant crash site  The Washington Post
  2. Jury awards plaintiffs $31M in lawsuit over Kobe Bryant crash photos  CNN
  3. Jury awards Kobe Bryant’s widow $16M in damages  ABC News
  4. Verdict reached in Kobe Bryant crash photos lawsuit  KTLA Los Angeles
  5. Vanessa Bryant wins lawsuit against Los Angeles County over invasion of privacy, awarded $16 million  Fox News