Kobe Bryant was one of the most photogenic sports figures in Los Angeles and images of him seen by millions around the world — smiling in victory, grimacing in agony — keep his memory alive.
But some photos of him should never be seen, his widow says, and she’s seeking unspecified millions in compensation for snapshots taken of the NBA star’s corpse that were circulated after he was killed in a helicopter crash with their daughter and seven others in 2020.
Vanessa Bryant on Tuesday settled her remaining claims against Los Angeles County after deputies shared photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, their 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
The group was traveling to a youth basketball game via helicopter, which crashed into the hills in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles, on Jan. 26, 2020. All nine people on board were killed, and an investigation deemed the crash was the fault of the pilot.
Bryant’s suit against Los Angeles County stems from deputies sharing photos of the crash site. They were shared among the L.A. County sheriff and fire departments, spouses of responding deputies and a bartender at a bar where one deputy was drinking.
Bryant testified in August 2022 that news of the photos being shared compounded the grief of her husband and daughter’s deaths and caused her to suffer from panic attacks that the photos might still exist.
“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Luis Li, Vanessa 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. We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice.”
Here’s what you need to know about the suit:
Vanessa Bryant lawsuit settlement
Bryant settled with L.A. County for $28.85 million, which also includes $15 million a jury awarded her in August 2022 after a trial in federal court. The remaining $13.35 million will be distributed to her surviving daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri.
Mira Hashmall, the lead lawyer representing L.A. County, called the settlement “fair and reasonable.” She also described it as final, saying it “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.”
Chris Chester, the co-plaintiff in the suit, also received a $19.95 million settlement. His wife and daughter died in the crash.
Kobe Bryant helicopter crash photos
First responders at the site of the helicopter crash took photos as part of their documentation, a routine aspect of their duties. However, photos taken at the site — which reportedly included close-up shots of the remains of people on board — were shared in an unofficial capacity.
The photos reportedly were shared among the sheriff and fire departments, by responders who were playing video games and attending an award banquet, and at a bar where one of the deputies was drinking. Li argued the close-up shots of people’s remains were unnecessary, and were shared out of “visual gossip.”
L.A. County sheriff Alex Villanueva, upon discovering the photos were shared, reportedly ordered them destroyed before being forced to launch an investigation. Vanessa Bryant in September 2020 sued the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, fire department, the county as a whole and eight officers who took and shared photos.
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