A federal jury has ruled that Los Angeles County must pay Kobe Bryant’s widow $16million (£13.6million) for emotional distress caused by emergency workers who took and shared images of the NBA star’s body.
Ryant was traveling with 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other people to a youth basketball game when the helicopter they were on crashed into the hills in Calabasas west of Los Angeles on January 26, 2020.
The nine jurors agreed with Vanessa Bryant and her attorneys that the photos invaded their privacy and caused emotional distress. She cried softly when it was read.
The jury deliberated for four and a half hours before reaching its verdict on Kobe Bryant Day, which is celebrated in LA on August 24 because it represents his jersey numbers – 8 and 24 – and is the day after his birthday. On Tuesday he would have been 44 years old.
Following the verdict, Ms Bryant posted a photo of herself with her husband and daughter on Instagram.
“Anything for you!” the caption read. “I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!”
A county attorney declined to comment on the verdict outside of the courtroom.
The images were shared primarily between employees of the LA County Sheriff and Fire Department, including some playing video games and attending an awards banquet.
They were also seen by some of their spouses and, on one occasion, by a bartender at a bar where a deputy was drinking.
Ms Bryant tearfully testified during the 11-day trial that news of the photos a month after the loss of her husband and daughter increased her still raw grief and that she still has panic attacks when she thinks about losing her might still be out there.
“I live in fear every day of being on social media and this coming up,” she testified. “I live in fear that my daughters will be on social media and this will show up.”
Her co-plaintiff Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter were also among the nine dead, was awarded $15 million (£12.75 million).
“We are grateful for a jury and judge that gave us a fair trial,” said Jerry Jackson, attorney for Mr Chester.
Ms. Bryant’s attorneys did not give the jury the dollar amount they earned for their client, but Mr. Chester’s attorney gave them proposed guidelines that would have meant tens of millions for each plaintiff.
Ms Bryant and her lawyer declined to comment outside of court on Wednesday. Her face was still in tears as she walked past television cameras and dozens of reporters and got into an SUV.
Her attorney, Luis Li, told jurors the close-ups had no official or investigative purpose and were just “visual gossip” shared out of cruel curiosity.
District Attorney J Mira Hashmall argued during the trial that the photos were a necessary tool to assess the situation.
She acknowledged that they shouldn’t be shared with everyone who saw them. However, she stressed that the photos were never made public and were not even seen by the plaintiffs.
She said it meant Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other officers acted decisively and effectively in ordering the photos’ owners to delete them.
Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the crash.
https://www.independent.ie/news/jury-finds-in-favour-of-kobe-bryants-widow-vanessa-and-orders-for-her-to-be-paid-16m-in-trial-over-crash-photos-41935963.html The jury rules in favor of Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, ordering her to be paid $16 million in the crash photos trial