Vanessa Bryant awarded $16 million verdict over crash photos
Vanessa Bryant, center, Kobe Bryant's widow, leaves a federal courthouse with her daughter, Natalia, left, and soccer player Sydney Leroux in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. A federal jury has found that Los Angeles County must pay Bryant's widow $16 million over photos of the NBA star's body at the site of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed him. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
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Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant, was awarded $16 million for emotional distress following law enforcement sharing pictures of the crash that killed the basketball superstar and his daughter. Police officers and firefighters shared photos of the victims’ bodies at the site of the crash.

A jury found Los Angeles County must pay the money to Bryant, 40. She alleged that the pictures of Kobe and their daughter Gianna, 13, traumatized her as well as other family members, and invaded their privacy.

The nine-member jury unanimously agreed with Bryant’s attorney. The jury deliberated for over four hours before reaching that verdict.

Bryant cried quietly while the verdict was read. There was no word on other family members in the courtroom.

The pictures were widely shared by law enforcement among each other and their spouses. One picture was shared with a bartender where a sheriff’s deputy was drinking following the crash. 

Bryant took the stand during the trial, noting the difficulties she has faced since the pictures were released. “I live in fear every day of being on social media and these popping up. I live in fear of my daughters being on social media and these popping up.”

Vanessa Bryant wins lawsuit

A Los Angeles County attorney at the courtroom had no comment on the verdict. However, one attorney noted that the photos were “necessary” to gauge the situation at the crash.

The attorney, J. Mira Hashmall, noted that while the photos should not have been released, the law enforcement officers who shared the photos were ordered to delete them by the county sheriff, and in some cases punished. She also stated that the plaintiffs had not seen the photos.

Bryant’s co-plaintiff was Chris Chester, who also lost his wife and daughter in the helicopter crash. Chester was awarded $15 million in the verdict.

Bryant’s attorney did not offer a monetary recompense for the widow and her family. However, Chester’s attorney provided guidelines in the tens of millions.

The crash occurred on January 26, 2020. Bryant and others were on their way to a youth basketball game when the helicopter crashed into Calabasas, just west of Los Angeles. All eight passengers plus the pilot were killed. 

The verdict was reached on August 24, which is known as Kobe Bryant Day, as the date includes his former jersey numbers 8 and 24. Bryant would be 44 this year. 

Erika Stone is a graduate student in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Oklahoma, and a graduate assistant at Schusterman Library. A Chess Memorial Scholar, she has a B.A. in Psychology...