Jury awards Vanessa Bryant $16 million for accident photos taken of Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna

LOS ANGELES — Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, was awarded $16 million as part of a $31 million jury verdict Wednesday against Los Angeles County for deputies and firefighters sharing grisly photos of the NBA star; their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna; and other victims killed in a helicopter crash in 2020.

All nine jurors unanimously agreed with Vanessa Bryant and her attorneys that the photos invaded her privacy and caused emotional distress. She wept softly as the verdict was read.

The jury deliberated 4.5 hours before delivering the verdict on Kobe Bryant Day, which is commemorated in the city of Los Angeles on August 24 because it represents his jersey numbers – 8 and 24 – and is the day after his birthday . Tuesday would have been Bryant’s 44th birthday.

After the verdict, Vanessa Bryant posted a photo on Instagram of herself with her husband and daughter.

“All for you!” the caption read. “I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!”

A county attorney declined to comment on the verdict outside the courtroom.

The footage was shared primarily among LA County Sheriff’s and Fire Department employees, including some who were playing video games and attending an awards banquet. They were also seen by some of their spouses and in one case by a bartender at a bar where an MP was drinking.

Vanessa Bryant tearfully testified during the 11-day trial that news of the photos added to her still raw grief a month after the deaths of her husband and daughter, and that she still has panic attacks at the idea that the pictures might still be there.

“I live every day in fear of being on social networks and that these appear”, she testified. “I live in fear that my daughters will be on social media and these will show up.”

His co-plaintiff, Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter were also among the nine people killed in the crash, was awarded $15 million.

“We are grateful to a jury and a judge who gave us a fair trial,” Chester attorney Jerry Jackson said.

Vanessa Bryant’s attorneys didn’t give jurors a dollar amount they thought their client deserved, but Chester’s attorney suggested guidelines that would have meant tens of millions for each plaintiff.

Vanessa Bryant and her attorney declined to comment in court Wednesday. Her face was still streaked with tears as she walked past TV cameras and dozens of reporters and got into an SUV.

Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, told jurors the close-up photos had no official or investigative purpose and were merely “visual gossip” shared out of macabre curiosity.

County 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 have been shared with everyone who saw them. But she stressed that the photos had never appeared publicly and had never been seen by the complainants. She said that meant Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other officials took decisive and effective action when they ordered those with the photos to delete them.

Kobe Bryant, the former Lakers star, five-time NBA champion and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was traveling with Gianna and seven others to a youth basketball game when the helicopter they were riding in s crashed in the Calabasas hills west of Los Angeles. January 26, 2020.

Federal safety officials blamed pilot error on the crash.

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