LA County Approves $2.5M Payout Over Kobe Bryant Crash Photos

Los Angeles County authorities approved $2.5 million in settlements Tuesday, ending two suits accusing county employees of sharing graphic photos taken at the scene of the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and others in January 2020. This decision comes a day after his widow, Vanessa Bryant, avoided the county’s bid to psychiatrically examine her in a separate suit.

KobePhoto Credit: Shutterstock

The LA County Board of Supervisors approved two identical $1.25 million payments to the families of basketball coach Christina Mauser and three members of the Altobelli family, who died alongside Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, while flying to a youth basketball game at Mamba Sports Academy, a Thousand Oaks facility owned by Kobe.

The payments will be funded  by the budgets of the county police and fire departments according to the board’s agenda.

Four other suits filed by Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, the settling parties and another victim’s relatives seek emotional distress damages, accusing LA County first responders of transforming “the intensely private deaths of their loved ones into macabre gossip and cocktail conversation” when they shared graphic photos of the victims’ remains on their phones with other county employees and acquaintances.

The county has acknowledged media reports that cellphone pictures of the crash victims’ remains had been taken by its employees and is being sued for both alleged invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The board’s settlement approval comes a single day after a California federal judge said Vanessa Bryant did not have to go through a psychiatric evaluation as part of her lawsuit.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick denied without prejudice the county’s request that Bryant and Christopher Chester, the parent of one of the basketball players killed in the crash, undergo independent medical evaluations, saying the motion is untimely given that the court has already set strict schedules for the cases.

Discovery ends on Nov. 29 and the trials are set for February of next year. However, if U.S. District Judge John F. Walter, who is overseeing the related suits, changes any of those dates, Judge Eick stated a renewed motion could be considered timely.

In its motion on Oct. 15, LA County contended that the plaintiffs are seeking “tens of millions of dollars” based solely on “severe emotional distress” claims but are refusing to participate in independent medical examinations in order to assess the alleged emotional distress and mental trauma injuries suffered.

“Plaintiffs cannot claim that they are suffering from ongoing depression, anxiety and severe emotional distress and then balk at having to support their claims,” the county said in its motion asking the court to order the IMEs.

The county argued that the emotional distress injuries allegedly suffered by the plaintiffs actually stem from the deaths of their relatives rather than the existence of the accident site photos. The county also claimed the plaintiffs stalled the county’s request that they undergo IMEs for weeks and ultimately refused to do so.

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