LOS ANGELES — Vanessa, the widow of Kobe Bryant, was awarded $16 million on Wednesday as part of a $31 million jury verdict against Los Angeles County for deputies and firefighters who shared horrific photos of the NBA star; their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna; and other victims died in a helicopter crash in 2020.
The nine jurors unanimously agreed with Vanessa Bryant and her attorneys that the photos violated her privacy and caused emotional distress. She wept softly as the verdict was read.
The jury deliberated 4½ hours before the verdict on Kobe Bryant Day, which is commemorated August 24 in the city of LA as it represents his jersey numbers – 8 and 24 – and falls the day after his birthday. Tuesday would have been Bryant’s 44th birthday.
After the verdict, Vanessa Bryant posted a photo on Instagram of herself with her husband and daughter.
“All for you!” read the caption. “I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and Gigi!”
A county attorney declined to comment on the verdict outside the courtroom.
The photos were mostly shared by LA County Sheriff and Fire Department officials, including some who played video games and attended an awards ceremony. They were also seen by some of their husbands and in one case by a bartender at a bar where a deputy was drinking.
Vanessa Bryant tearfully testified during the 11-day trial that the news of the photos exacerbated her still raw grief a month after the deaths of her husband and daughter, and that she still has panic attacks at the thought that the photos are still there. could be .
“I live every day in fear of being on social media and these popping up,” she testified. “I live in fear that my daughters will be on social media and this one will show up.”
Her co-plaintiff, Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter were also among the nine people killed in the crash, was awarded $15 million.
“We are grateful to a jury and judge who gave us a fair trial,” Chester’s attorney Jerry Jackson said.
Vanessa Bryant’s attorneys didn’t give the jurors a dollar amount they thought their client deserved, but Chester’s attorney gave them guidelines that would have meant tens of millions to each plaintiff.
Vanessa Bryant and her attorney declined to comment out of court on Wednesday. Her face was still stained with tears as she passed TV cameras and dozens of reporters and got into an SUV.
Vanessa Bryant’s attorney Luis Li told jurors that the close-up photos had no official or investigative purpose and were just “visual gossip” shared out of horrifying curiosity.
Attorney J. Mira Hashmall argued at trial that the photos were a necessary tool to assess the situation.
She acknowledged that they should not have been shared with anyone who saw them. But she emphasized that the photos had never appeared in public and had never been seen by the plaintiffs. She said this meant Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other officials had taken decisive and effective action when they ordered those who had the photos to remove them.
Kobe Bryant, the former star of the Lakers, five-time NBA champion and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was traveling with Gianna and seven others to a youth basketball game when the helicopter aboard crashed into the hills in Calabasas west of Los Angeles on August 26. January 2020.
Federal security officials blamed the pilot’s error.