(CNN) — After more than three hours of deliberation, a federal jury awarded Los Angeles County $31 million in damages after finding it violated Los Angeles County’s constitutional rights. Vanessa Bryant and co-plaintiff Christopher Chester, whose wife and daughter were among the victims of the unfortunate helicopter crash in January 2020.
Vanessa Bryant received $16 million in damages and Chris Chester $15 million. Immediately after the verdict was read, Bryant hugged his lawyers. As she continued to cry, Bryant tearfully hugged her daughter Natalia in the front row. She left the court without giving any statement.
At the center of the investigation were photos taken by Los Angeles County deputies and firefighters of not only the wreckage of the helicopter, but also the mutilated bodies of the victims, including NBA star Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, Chester’s wife Sarah. Their daughter Payton and five others.
The National Transportation Safety Board The pilot of the helicopter crashed into a mountainside in Calabasas, California after violating flight rules limits in bad weather.
Bryant and Chester argued that the photos of their loved ones caused emotional distress and violated their privacy. Each testified that they lived in fear that the photos would come to light, although Los Angeles County said they had destroyed each image.
Jurors heard 11 days of graphic testimony. During the trial, witnesses included an officer who said he was shown graphic images of the scene while at a bar, another officer who said he shared the photos while playing a video game, an officer who sent dozens of photos to someone he did not know, and an officer. A member of the fire department showed pictures to other employees while having cocktails at the awards ceremony.
The only plaintiff’s claim not supported by the jury was the finding that the county fire department was not liable for any long-standing widespread practice or practice of illegal photography. The sheriff’s department was also found responsible for the same problem.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a privacy bill into law in September 2020 called the “Cobe Bryant Act.” A violation carries a fine of up to $1,000.
Coincidentally, Los Angeles named Wednesday, Aug. 24, “Kobe Bryant Day” to honor the Los Angeles Lakers star’s two jersey numbers, 8 and 24, that he wore during his NBA career. The Lakers have retired both numbers.