Vanessa Bryant and three of her daughters are set to receive a payout of about $30 million to settle a lawsuit and potential future claims over the sharing of graphic photos taken by first responders at the helicopter crash that killed her husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant, and one of their daughters.
Los Angeles County has agreed to pay Bryant the amount, according to a court filing Tuesday, after a court battle that saw testimony from the widow about the tragic deaths of the Bryants.
The settlement includes the $15 million a jury awarded Vanessa Bryant in August, with additional funds to settle potential claims from her daughters. Kobe and his 13-year-old daughter were among the nine people who died in the Jan. 26, 2020 crash on a Calabasas hillside.
“We believe the settlement approved by the Board in the Bryant case is fair and reasonable,” Mira Hashmall, lead trial counsel for the county in the case, said in a statement. “The $28,850,000 settlement includes the verdict awarded by the federal jury in August 2022, and further 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,” she said.
Vanessa Bryant was joined by Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter died in the crash in the lawsuit over negligence and invasion of privacy in September 2020. They won at trial in Los Angeles federal court in August. At trial, she told the court that she continues to suffer from grief and panic attacks at the idea of the crash photos surfacing.
“It’s like COVID. Once it’s spread, you can’t get it back,” she testified.
“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Luis Li, 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,” Li said. “We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice.”
The Board of Supervisors agreed to pay Bryant’s family $28.85 million to settle the widow’s lawsuit and possible future claims by Natalia, 20, Bianka, 6, and Capri, 3. The jury in downtown Los Angeles awarded Bryant and Chester $15 million each.
In late 2022, the board approved an additional $4.95 million to Chester for the eath of his wife, Sarah, and their 13-year-old daughter Payton.
The crux of the case was whether Bryant and Chester had suffered emotional pain after learning that personal photos of human remains at the crash scene were taken and then shown, for no good reason, to a bartender, attendees of an awards ceremony and sent by a sheriff’s deputy to a colleague. The county did not dispute that some photos were shared with few deputies and firefighters; however, defense attorneys maintained that all images taken by first responders were destroyed on orders of the sheriff and fire chief, and no longer exist in any form. The photos never entered the public domain, they said.
Two other families settled with the county separately over the photos for $1.25 million each. The victims’ families reached a settlement with the helicopter company over the crash, but those terms remain confidential.
City News Service contributed to this report