Vanessa Bryant v. Los Angeles County

Posted by Zaki Illyas.

In September 2020, Vanessa Bryant sued Los Angeles county officials in a federal civil case following the death of her husband, Kobe Bryant, and daughter, Gianna. Ms. Bryant reached a nearly $29 million settlement in the case. Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were on their way to a basketball tournament in Orange County, California via helicopter ride. Tragically, the pilot “became disoriented in the clouds” and Kobe and Gianna along with 7 others, including the pilot, passed away as they crashed in the hills around Calabasas, California.
The legal issue at hand was the fact that first responders to the crash had taken pictures of the bodies of the victims. Not only were pictures taken, but they were shared with people, which built a really strong case against the county. According to the lawsuit “One sheriff’s deputy, Joey Cruz, showed the photos to patrons at a bar.” Another woman testified that a Fire Department member showed some of the photos at a gala event. Ms. Bryant testified saying “I felt like I wanted to run down the block and just scream,.. But I couldn’t escape. I can’t escape my body.”

Understandably, Ms. Bryant was disheartened by this. The lawyers representing her claimed that “She lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online.” Los Angeles County still refuses to admit wrongdoing in the settlement. Lawyers for the county claimed “This is a photograph case but there are no photographs” since no one in the courtroom explicitly viewed the images. However, the jury disagreed with the county for two reasons: 1.) They found that the failure to train the agencies of first responders about the right to privacy is a constitutional violation. 2.) They found that the sheriff departments’ actions of taking and sharing pictures of human remains is a violation of Ms. Bryant’s constitutional rights. While a settlement was still reached, the emotional distress that this issue caused Ms. Bryant is not negated and this was definitely a traumatic event to deal with for the Bryant family.

I grew up a Lakers fan, largely because of Kobe. He was the reason I got into, and came to love the sport of basketball. When I heard about his tragic passing I was distraught; I did not think it was real. So naturally, learning about the actions of these first responders made me sick and it is undoubtedly a breach of the Bryant family’s privacy and mental health. While Ms. Bryant was able to settle for nearly $29 million, it cannot excuse the emotional trauma that the family had to deal with.

Zaki Illyas is a student at Seton Hall University majoring in Finance (Class of 2025).,plaintiff%20was%20awarded%20%2415%20million.