Vanessa Bryant has won her lawsuit against Los Angeles County over graphic photos taken and shared by first responders at the site of the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna, and seven of their friends and loved ones from Gianna’s basketball team.
After over four hours of deliberation, a federal jury ruled that Bryant will be awarded $16 million in damages over the unauthorized creation and disbursement of the photos, ruling unanimously that her privacy was invaded. An additional $15 million was granted to fellow plaintiff Chris Chester, who also lost his wife and daughter, Sarah and Payton Chester, in the same crash.
New York Post reports that Bryant cried quietly as the verdict was read. Coincidentally, the verdict was delivered just one day after what would have been Kobe Bryant’s 44th birthday, and on what has been named Kobe Bryant Day (or Mamba Day) in Los Angeles and Orange County, due to the date 8/24 commemorating both the basketball star’s famed jersey numbers.
The 9 jurors furthermore ruled that both Bryant and Chester’s constitutional rights were violated by the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s failure to train their first responders on accident-scene photos and sharing protocols.
Photos of the accident scene were shared and shown both internally and with members of the public. According to CNN, multiple trial witnesses testified to sharing graphic photographs of the bodies of the crash victims to people outside of their department. Deputies admitted to sharing the photos with others in various scenarios, including while drinking at a bar, while playing video games, during cocktails at company awards ceremonies, and even sending directly to people they did not personally know.
Bryant and Chester’s suit originally sought an additional $75 million for the emotional distress caused by the dissemination of the graphic photos. Bryant has reportedly broken down several times at trial, once leaving the courtroom in tears as a bartender testified to viewing photographs of severed body parts at the crash site, shared with him by a first responder while seated at the bar.
Just last week, Bryant testified in court that she faces constant fear and anxiety over the prospect of herself or her children stumbling across a leak of the photos of her deceased husband, daughter, or family friends on social media.
“I live in fear every day of seeing on social media and having these images pop up,” she said on the stand. “I don’t ever want to see these photographs. I want to remember them as they were.”