A federal jury unanimously voted Wednesday to award Vanessa Bryant $16 million in her invasion of privacy lawsuit against the County of Los Angeles regarding photos allegedly taken of her late husband Kobe Bryant following the fatal crash that killed the NBA star, her daughter, and seven others in January 2020.
Nine jurors reached the verdict, siding with Bryant and her attorneys, that Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters invaded her privacy and brought emotional distress after taking and sharing photos of the bodies of her husband and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
“I live in fear every day of being on social media and these popping up,” she testified, according to KCRA. “I live in fear of my daughters being on social media and these popping up.”
Chris Chester, Bryant’s co-plaintiff, was awarded $15 million for photos taken of his wife and daughter, who were among the nine killed in the helicopter crash.
ABC News reports that Chester told the jury Thursday on the witness stand that he was in “disbelief” after hearing reports about the photos taken of his wife Sarah, and their 13-year-old daughter, Payton.
“It was grief on top of grief,” he said, calling for “justice and accountability.”
In September 2020, Bryant filed the suit in U.S. District Court, claiming that the photos of the deceased allegedly taken by authorities at the crash scene and then shared at various events have caused her emotional distress.
“Mrs. Bryant feels ill at the thought that sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, and members of the public have gawked at gratuitous images of her deceased husband and child,” according to the lawsuit, Reuters noted. “She lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online.”
Bryant’s suit sought undisclosed damages, claiming civil rights violations, negligence, emotional distress, and violation of privacy, CNN reported.
L.A. County officials have argued that Bryant’s “severe and emotional and mental injuries” came from the crash itself rather than the photos.
In September 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA) signed an invasion of privacy bill after the fatal accident, called the “Kobe Bryant Act.” The bill makes it illegal for first responders to share photos of a deceased body at a crime scene “for any other purpose other than official law enforcement purpose.”