LA County to pay $29 mn to Kobe Bryant’s widow over crash photos

NBA superstar Kobe Bryant (with wife Vanessa and daughters Gianna, L, and Natalia) was killed in a helicopter crash in January 2020

Los Angeles County has agreed to pay the widow of Kobe Bryant nearly $29 million after first responders shared gruesome photos of the helicopter crash that killed the NBA superstar.

Bryant, the couple’s teenage daughter Gianna, and seven others died when their chopper smashed into a hillside near Los Angles in January 2020.

Sheriff’s deputies and firefighters who rushed to the scene snapped pictures of the carnage, including the mangled remains of the Los Angeles Lakers legend and his daughter.

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Bryant’s widow Vanessa sued for emotional damages over the pictures, which she feared would one day surface on the internet.

Los Angeles County has now agreed to pay $28.85 million to settle all crash-related litigation.

“Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant’s courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct,” Vanessa Bryant’s attorney Luis Li 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. We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice.”

Mira Hashmall, who represented Los Angeles County in the case, called the settlement “fair and reasonable.”

“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 Tuesday.

“This settlement now concludes all County-related litigation related to the tragic January 2020 helicopter crash. We hope Ms. Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss.”

The trial had heard how some of the first responders to the crash showed the photographs to members of the public including a bartender, while one sheriff’s deputy texted them to a friend as the pair played the “Call of Duty” video game.

A tearful Vanessa Bryant told the trial she lives in fear of the pictures surfacing on the internet, and “constantly being spread.” 

“Once it’s spread, you can’t get it back,” she said.

She told jurors she had bolted out of the house to find a place to cry away from her daughters when she learned of the existence of the photos.

“I broke down and cried, and I wanted to run down the block and just scream,” she said. 

“I don’t want my children to ever come across them.”

Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter also died in the crash, separately settled for nearly $20 million, US media reported.

The existence of the photographs was uncovered by the Los Angeles Times a month after the crash.

In 2007, an inquiry was launched over concerns that entertainment blogs and tabloids were offering cash to law enforcement officials for inside information on accidents and arrests.

That came after TMZ published an inside account of Mel Gibson’s now-infamous anti-Semitic rant during his arrest in Malibu.


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