SETTLED: L.A. County To Pay Vanessa Bryant $28.85 Million Settlement Over Graphic Crash Photos

After three years of litigation, the family of the late NBA star Kobe Bryant has settled a lawsuit with Los Angeles County over deputies and firefighters sharing graphic photos of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others in January 2020. More inside…

Vanessa Bryant, the widow of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, has settled her remaining claims with Los Angeles County for $28.85 million over graphic photos that were shared after the helicopter crash that killed her husband, their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others in January 2020. The other victims were coaches, teen basketball players, and the pilot: John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester, Ara Zobayan, and Christina Mauser.

According to court filings, the settlement includes the $15 million that a federal jury awarded Vanessa Bryant in August 2021 and an additional $13.5 million that was agreed upon recently. The agreement resolves any future claims by Vanessa’s three surviving daughters, related issues pending in state court, and other costs.

Co-plaintiff Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter were also killed in the crash, received a $19.95 million settlement. The settlement is the result of a lawsuit filed against the county over the deputies and firefighters sharing graphic photos of the victims killed in the crash.

During the 11-day trial in August 2021, Vanessa Bryant testified that news of the photos compounded her grief a month after the crash and that she had panic attacks at the thought that the photos might still be out there.

Deputies and firefighters responding to the crash scene shot phone photos of the bodies and the wreckage, which some argued were an essential part of assessing the situation. However, the photos were shared among employees of the Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire departments, including by 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 a deputy was drinking.

At trial, Vanessa’s attorney argued that the close-up photos had no official or investigative purpose and were mere “visual gossip” shared out of gruesome curiosity. Mira Hashmall, the lead lawyer representing Los Angeles County, argued that the sheriff acted swiftly and appropriately when he ordered the photos deleted.

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 aboard crashed into hills in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles, on Jan. 26, 2020. Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the crash.

The settlement is expected to put an end to the practice of sharing graphic photos of victims in the future, and Vanessa Bryant hopes her victory at trial and this settlement will prevent other families from experiencing similar trauma.

Photos: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File/Kathy Hutchins/Shutterstock