A jury on Wednesday ordered Los Angeles County to pay $31 million in damages over photos taken by sheriff’s deputies and firefighters who responded to the scene of the helicopter crash that killed basketball star Kobe Bryant.
The county was ordered to pay $16 million to Vanessa Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers player’s widow, and $15 million to co-plaintiff Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter also died in the January 2020 crash at a hill near Los Angeles.
The civil trial in Los Angeles exposed how some members of the first responders showed those photos to people unrelated to the case, in particular a bartender. A deputy from the sheriff’s office also sent them to a friend while they were both playing video games.
Vanessa Bryant shares this message after being awarded $16 million ?? pic.twitter.com/VnXBjHanOg
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In its defense, Los Angeles County argued that the images were never made public and that its top officials were quick to delete them from officers’ electronic devices. But during the two weeks of the trial, Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester expressed their constant fear that the images would one day go viral on the internet.
Chester’s attorney, Jerry Jackson, asked the jury Tuesday to award the two plaintiffs $1 million for each year of their estimated life expectancy. A figure that would amount to about 40 million dollars for Vanessa Bryant, 40, and 30 million dollars for Chris Chester, 48.
Jackson called the sum “fair and reasonable compensation“. “There isn’t much money to make up for what they’ve been through“, he said. Vanessa Bryant’s lawyer, Craig Lavoie, assured that he was asking for justice and that those involved should be held accountable.