Los Angeles County set to pay two families over photos from Kobe Bryant helicopter crash

Written by on October 28, 2021

Los Angeles County is about to pay two households $1.25 million every after they accused county first responders of improperly sharing pictures of their useless family members from a helicopter crash final yr that additionally killed NBA legend Kobe Bryant, in line with the proposed settlement phrases posted by the county Wednesday night time.

County representatives lately reached these pending phrases with the Altobelli and Mauser households after they’d sued the county for invasion of privateness and negligence. Their lawsuits have been much like two others that stay ongoing and headed to trial in February – one filed by Bryant’s widow Vanessa and one filed by Chris Chester, the husband and father of two different crash victims.

The proposed settlements are topic to ultimate approval by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, which is anticipated subsequent week.

“We consider these proposed settlements of $1.25 million are affordable and honest to all involved,” mentioned an announcement from Skip Miller, outdoors counsel for the county and accomplice of the Miller Barondess regulation agency. “We’re happy that the Mauser and Altobelli households, who as non-public residents suffered the identical grief and loss as others, will be capable of transfer ahead after these settlements. … We additionally hope that finally the opposite households will be capable of do the identical.” 

The Altobelli and Mauser plaintiffs had sought to recuperate damages for the emotional misery they mentioned they suffered after studying of “outrageous” conduct by county sheriff’s and fireplace division workers. Of their lawsuits, they mentioned these workers had improperly taken and shared pictures of human stays from the crash scene in January 2020, together with these of their members of the family.

Vanessa Bryant at Kobe's memorial in 2020.

The county’s charges and prices in these two circumstances has run to about $1.three million, in line with a letter to the county board of supervisors from County Counsel Rodrigo Castro-Silva.  Cost of such charges and prices will probably be divided between the county sheriff’s and fireplace division’s current budgets, in line with the letter. Castro-Silva really useful that the board approve the settlements and instruct the L.A. County Auditor-Controller to attract warrants to implement them from the sheriff’s and fireplace division budgets. 

“Given the dangers and uncertainties of litigation, in addition to the tragic accident giving rise to the lawsuits, honest and affordable settlements at the moment will keep away from additional litigation prices,” Castro-Silva wrote in his letter to the board. “Subsequently, full and ultimate settlements of the 2 circumstances are warranted.”

In its protection within the Bryant case, the county has mentioned the pictures weren’t posted on the web or “publicly disseminated” past that of an remoted incident or two at a bar and a banquet. 

However even because the county has settled to finish these two circumstances, its authorized battle with Vanessa Bryant lately has escalated.

In a ruling Tuesday, she gained a court docket order to compel the pretrial deposition testimony of L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Fire Chief Daryl Osby. Her authorized workforce at Munger Tolles & Olson LLP needs to know extra about what they did and knew concerning the pictures, together with destruction of proof associated to it.

MORE: In deposition, Kobe Bryant’s widow Vanessa recounts the day her husband and daughter died

MORE: Vanessa Bryant wins ruling against Los Angeles County sheriff and fire chief

Earlier this month, Bryant testified in her personal deposition and mentioned she was in search of “accountability” for a way these pictures of husband and daughter have been shared “as in the event that they have been animals on a road.”

“Are you in search of cash on this lawsuit, sure or no?” requested Miller, the legal professional defending the county.

“That might be as much as the jury,” Bryant replied, according to the transcript obtained by USA TODAY Sports. “I do not – I am not asking for a greenback quantity.”

School baseball coach John Altobelli, his spouse Keri and daughter Alyssa have been amongst 9 who died within the crash, together with the pilot, Bryant, Bryant’s daughter Gigi, basketball coach Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton. The households have been headed to a youth basketball event that day earlier than foggy circumstances led to the crash close to Los Angeles.

Surviving members of the Bryant, Altobelli, Mauser and Chester households then filed two separate units of civil lawsuits – one alleging wrongful demise in opposition to Island Specific, the proprietor and operator of the doomed helicopter, and one other in opposition to the county over the pictures of human stays from the crash web site.

Earlier this yr, the households reached a confidential settlement in the Island Express case.

Within the pictures matter, the fireplace division notified a minimum of two workers they have been going to be fired over what they did. The division informed one in all them in a letter that his images from the crash scene had “no reputable enterprise objective” and “solely served to attraction to baser instincts and wishes for what amounted to visible gossip,” according to court records obtained by USA TODAY Sports. The division supposed to terminate the worker over it earlier than he retired early, citing his psychological well being.

That former worker, Brian Jordan, mentioned he was obeying orders and being made right into a scapegoat for the county’s personal shortcoming, in accordance court docket paperwork.

Within the Altobelli and Mauser picture lawsuits, the households have been represented by the agency of Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi LLP. That agency additionally lately helped win a settlement of as much as $1.eight billion in opposition to Southern California Fuel Co. and its mother or father firm, Sempra Vitality, to compensate thousands of plaintiffs from the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas blowout and leak near Los Angeles.

Comply with reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: bschrotenb@usatoday.com

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