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Thursday, August 25, 2022 – Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, has been awarded $16m (£13.6m) in damages over leaked photos of the helicopter crash that killed the basketball star and his daughter in 2020.

Mrs Bryant’s husband Kobe Bryant, 41, daughter Gianna, 13, and six family friends died when their helicopter crashed in California in January 2020.

The jury awarded Vanessa Bryant $16 million in compensation, after less than a day deliberating.

Her co-defendant Chris Chester, who lost his wife Sarah, 45, and daughter, Payton, 13, in the helicopter crash that killed nine, was awarded $15 million.

The jury found that sheriff’s deputies and firefighters who rushed to the scene of the January 2020 smash, unlawfully snapped pictures of the carnage, including the mangled remains of the Los Angeles Lakers legend and his daughter.

The sheriff’s department was ordered to pay Bryant $2.5 million for emotional distress already suffered and $7.5 million for future suffering. The fire department must pay her $1 million for past and $5 million for future suffering.

Chester was awarded $1.5 million from the sheriff’s office for past suffering and $7.5 million for future. He was given $1 million for past suffering caused by the fire department, and $5 million for future.

The civil trial in Los Angeles had heard how some of these first responders showed the photographs to members of the public including a bartender, while one deputy texted them to a friend as the pair played video games.

In its defense, Los Angeles County said the pictures have never become public and officials have been diligent in efforts to scrub them from devices.

‘To claim privacy and then put all these details in public — it defies logic,’ said Mira Hashmall, a lawyer for the county, in her closing statement.

‘This is a photographs case but there are no photographs.’

But the two-week trial heard how Vanessa Bryant and Chris Chester, whose wife and daughter also perished in the crash, live in fear of these photographs surfacing on the internet one day.

The pair both sued for emotional damages over the photos, in suits that have been combined.

Chester’s lawyer on Tuesday said the jury should award each of them a million dollars for every year of their remaining expected life, a figure that would amount to $40 million for 40-year-old Bryant and $30 million for 48-year-old Chester.

Sobbing on the witness stand last week, Mrs Bryant recalled being at home with her other children when she read the LA Times story.

“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.

Mrs Bryant said she had felt “blindsided, devastated, hurt and betrayed” by news of the leak and “[lives] in fear every day of… having these images pop up” 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.”

Attorney Jerry Jackson called the figure ‘a fair and reasonable compensation. You can’t award too much money for what they went through.’

Bryant’s lawyer Craig Lavoie said he was asking for ‘justice and accountability’ for the basketball great – a hero to the city of Los Angeles – and his widow.

‘We’re here because of intentional conduct – the county violated Mrs Bryant and Mr Chester’s constitutional rights,’ Lavoie said, asking the jury to hold the county liable for ‘the constitutional violations of its employees.’

An investigation into the crash found the pilot had probably become disorientated after flying the Sikorsky S-76 into fog.

Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest basketball players ever. He had a glittering two decades career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a five-time NBA champion in a career that began in 1996 straight out of high school and lasted until his retirement in 2016.

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