Kobe Bryant’s widow has been awarded $16m (£13.6m) in damages over leaked graphic photos of the helicopter crash that killed the US basketball star and his daughter in 2020.
Following the discovery that photographs taken by firefighters and sheriff’s officers in Los Angeles County had been distributed, Vanessa Bryant, 40, claimed to have experienced panic attacks.
The county must now compensate Mrs. Bryant for her emotional distress, according to a federal jury.
Chris Chester, a co-plaintiff, will receive $15 million
In January 2020, the Bryants’ helicopter crashed in California, killing Mrs. Bryant’s husband Kobe Bryant, 41, daughter Gianna, 13, and six close friends. Payton and Sarah Chester, Mr. Chester’s wife, were killed in the collision.
The families of the victims were left furious after reading an article in the Los Angeles Times that said county personnel took photos at the crash site and shared them with others.
The county agreed to pay the two families who lost loved ones in the crash $2.5 million (£2.1 million) in November, but the grieving widow refused to accept the settlement.
Last Monday, Mrs. Bryant, who was in tears on the witness stand, recalled reading the LA Times article while spending time with her other children at home.
“I bolted out of the house and I ran to the side of the house so the girls couldn’t see me. I wanted to run… down the block and just scream,” she said.
The discovery of the leak, according to Mrs. Bryant, left her feeling “blindsided, distraught, injured and betrayed,” and she “[lives] in fear every day of…having these photographs surface out” on social media.
“I don’t ever want to see these photographs,” she said. “I want to remember my husband and my daughter the way they were.”
At trial, jurors learned how firefighters and sheriff’s deputies took gruesome mobile images at the scene and displayed them to others, including at a bar and a gala event.
The conduct of these workers “poured salt in an open wound and rubbed it in,” according to Mrs. Bryant’s attorney Luis Li, who made the assertion last week during opening arguments.
The county’s attorney attempted to convince the jury that “site photography is crucial” and that the pictures had not been made available online.
Five-time NBA champion Kobe, who spent his entire playing career with the LA Lakers, is regarded as one of the game’s all-time greats.