Jury Awards $31M To Families Of Kobe Bryant And Other Victims Over Photos Shared From Helicopter Crash Site
Jurors in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday sided with Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Lakers star Kobe Bryant, in her lawsuit against Los Angeles County over sharing graphic photos that were taken by sheriff's deputies and other emergency personnel of the helicopter crash site in Calabasas.
The jury ordered L.A. County to pay Vanessa Bryant $16 million for emotional distress. Another $15 million was awarded to Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter were among the nine people killed in the Jan. 26, 2020 crash.
Bryant was traveling with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people to his Mamba Sports Academy facility in Thousand Oaks when the helicopter went down.
Meghann Cuniff, a reporter for the Law and Crime Network, described the courtroom scene at the federal courthouse in downtown L.A. in an interview on our newsroom's edition of All Things Considered, which airs on 89.3 FM (KPCC).
"Vanessa was was upset, emotional crying as it came out," she said. "She was hugging her lawyer, he actually turned in her seat and was looking at the jurors and thanking them that she was kind of cheerfully cheerfully crying. It was an emotional scene."
Cuniff said the jury was asked to determine whether the county Sheriff's and Fire departments were liable for the actions of their deputies and firefighters.
"The question was, was there a constitutional rights violation and does the department have a practice or a pattern of violating the constitutional rights?" Cuniff said. "And another question was, do they lack adequate training and policies to prevent this from happening?"
Cuniff said there was no immediate comment from county lawyers on whether they plan to appeal the verdicts.
She called the case "an important one," noting that Sheriff Alex Villanueva's remarks played a significant role.
"The sheriff's own words were used against him in court plenty of times because he gave some interviews to journalists... that said, you know that this is goes on all over America," Cuniff said. "He used the term death books or ghoul books and said that sheriff's employees have,a history of keeping mementos, souvenir photos for themselves. Stuff like that really hurt the Sheriff's department for sure."