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Jury awards $16 million in damages to Vanessa Bryant, $15 million to Chris Chester

A federal jury Wednesday ordered Los Angeles County to pay $31 million in damages over the actions of first-responders who snapped and shared gruesome photos from the scene of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed Laker legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and seven other people.  

Vanessa Bryant, flanked by her daughter and attorney did not make any comments as she left the courthouse. 


The damages were awarded to Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, and co-plaintiff Chris Chester, whose wife Sarah and 13-year-old daughter Payton also died in the Jan. 26, 2020, crash on a Calabasas hillside. The jury awarded Bryant $16 million and Chester $15 million.

The defense argued this is “a photo case with no photos,” alluding to the fact that the photos that were shared no longer exist. 

RELATED: “You can’t get it back”: Vanessa Bryant testifies she fears Kobe Bryant crash site photos will surface

Bryant had testified that the first responders who took photos of her dead 13-year-old daughter Gianna “violated” her, and she was devastated to learn that such images were taken, despite Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s assurances that the scene would be secured. She said during testimony that she continues to suffer from grief and anxiety at the thought of the crash site photos surfacing someday.  

Jurors, who began deliberations early Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles, reached their verdict after roughly four and a half hours of deliberations.

“This was a very emotional case. We had really wrenching testimony and we won’t know, until a juror tells us, how much that plays into the reward and the amount of the reward,” Loyola Law Professor Jessica Levinson told CBSLA. 

Levinson added that due to the quick four and a half hour deliberation, the trial was not a close call. 

The jury’s verdict came one day after what would have been Kobe Bryant’s 44th birthday, and it happened on “Mamba Day” in Los Angeles, which celebrates his life each year on Aug. 24, or 8-24, the two numbers he wore during his 20-year career with the Lakers.

Though cameras are not allowed in federal court, CBSLA learned that Bryant wept as the verdict was read. She left the courtroom flanked by her daughter and attorney, but did not make any comments before leaving in an SUV and waving to the assembled crowd. 

A short time later, Bryant posted a photo to her Instagram, writing, “All for you! I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!”

Mira Hashmall, a partner at the Miller Barondess law firm and lead outside counsel for LA County in the case, released the following statement:

“We are grateful for the jury’s hard work in this case. While we disagree with the jury’s findings as to the County’s liability, we believe the monetary award shows that jurors didn’t believe the evidence supported the Plaintiffs’ request of $75 million for emotional distress. We will be discussing next steps with our client. Meanwhile, we hope the Bryant and Chester families continue to heal from their tragic loss.”

Two other families settled lawsuits with the county over the same photos for $1.25 million each. 

Source: CBS Minnesota

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