Vanessa Bryant was awarded $16 million over the Kobe Bryant crash photos
"All for you! I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!” she wrote on Instagram after the verdict was announced.
A jury awarded a total of $31 million in damages to Kobe Bryant’s widow Vanessa Bryant and her co-plaintiff, Christopher Chester, on Wednesday in their lawsuit against the LA County Sheriff’s and Fire departments. Bryant was awarded $16 million and Chester awarded $15 million. The pair’s lawsuit alleged that their constitutional rights were infringed upon when members of both departments took and shared horrific photos of the tragic January 2020 helicopter crash that left nine people dead, including Kobe, he and Vanessa’s daughter Gianna, and Chester’s wife, Sarah. The decision came on “Kobe Bryant Day,” August 24 — the day after his birthday, which was established in 2016 to honor the player’s two jersey numbers, 8 and 24.
Bryant and Chester both emotionally testified about the distress the photos caused them, and how they violated their privacy. “I live in fear every day of being on social media and these popping up,” Bryant said on the stand. “I live in fear of my daughters being on social media and these popping up.” The photos depicted not just the wreckage of the helicopter, but also the bodies of the deceased. According to CNN, witnesses at the trial also included members of both departments that admitted to showing the photos to significant others, as well as sharing them at bars, over video games, and at an awards ceremony cocktail hour. The only plaintiff claim that the jury did not find the departments liable for was that the behavior was evidence of a habitual pattern of sharing lewd photos from crime scenes.
The jury deliberated for four and a half hours. Bryant did not make a statement leaving the courtroom, but she tearfully hugged her daughter Natalia as the verdict was read. She went on to post a picture on Instagram of herself with Kobe and Gianna, with a caption that read, “All for you! I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi! #Betonyourself #MambaDay 8•24•22 💜💛💜💛 #MambaMentality.” Bryant’s attorney Luis Li said in a statement, “This case has always been about accountability. And now the jury has unanimously spoken.” Chester’s lawyer Jerry Jackson added, “We're grateful for a jury and a judge who gave us a fair trial.”
LA County Attorney Mira Hashmall rebutted in a statement, “While we disagree with the jury’s findings as to the County’s liability, we believe the monetary award shows that jurors didn’t believe the evidence supported the Plaintiffs’ request of $75 million for emotional distress. We will be discussing next steps with our client. Meanwhile, we hope the Bryant and Chester families continue to heal from their tragic loss.” The decision comes after California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the “Kobe Bryant Act” into law in September 2020, which forbids law enforcement from sharing photos of dead persons from crime scenes for anything other than law enforcement purposes.