Kobe Bryant’s widow and a family friend deserve $75 million in damages for their emotional distress after emergency personnel shared grisly photos of a helicopter crash site where the former basketball star was killed, a jury was told.
Vanessa Bryant and Christopher Chester, an Orange County financial adviser who lost his wife and daughter in the crash, face the rest of their lives living in fear the photos of their deceased family members will appear somewhere in public or online, Vanessa Bryant’s lawyer Craig Lavoie told the nine members of the jury in Los Angeles federal court Tuesday.
Lavoie said, “Either the photos will surface and their worst fears will have been realized or they will live in fear that day will come.”
Bryant and Chester sued the Los Angeles sheriff’s and fire departments claiming their constitutional right was violated when emergency personnel attending the crash scene took photos with their phones and then circulated them to friends and colleagues.
Due process rights have been violated!
Public dissemination of family members’ death images that “shocks the conscience” would violate due process rights in California. If the jury finds that occurred, it will then have to determine whether the departments had inadequate policies and training or whether it was custom and practice for emergency personnel to take such pictures.
Lavoie told the jury evidence in the trial showed there were no policies in place, and emergency personnel had been taking death images since the invention of the Polaroid to keep as mementos.
Los Angeles County can rebut those claims in its arguments Wednesday.
Jerome Jackson, a lawyer for Chester, suggested to the jury that it should award each of the plaintiffs $2.5 million for their suffering in the past two years and as much as $1 million a year for the rest of their lives. He calculated Chester, who is 48, should get $30 million, while Vanessa Bryant should be awarded $40 million in future damages.
Kobe, widely known as one of the best professional basketball players of all time who spent his 20-year career playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, was killed with his daughter and seven others when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in cloudy weather in January 2020.
The closing arguments in the trial occurred on what would’ve been Kobe Bryant’s 44th birthday.
Lavoie told the jury, “We’re asking for justice and accountability on his behalf.”
The jury attended earlier in the trial that a sheriff’s department deputy shared graphic photos from the scene with a fellow deputy while the two were playing the video game “Call of Duty.”
Another deputy admitted showing pictures to a bartender while a firefighter showed photos on his phone to a small group of people who were attending an awards ceremony in February 2020.
Lavoie said that many of those involved in sharing the photos wiped or got rid of their phones, making it impossible to determine if the pictures were disseminated further.
Jackson said he got a voice message last week from a woman claiming she saw or knew where photos of the crash scene were and that someone had a link and would share them for a fee.
Jackson told the jury, “It sent a chill down my spine.”
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