Vanessa Bryant and co-plaintiff Chris Chestier won a combined $31 million in damages in their invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Los Angeles County. Both Bryant and Chester lost a spouse and a daughter in a January 2020 helicopter crash. Shortly thereafter, graphic photographs of the crash began spreading. During the trial, several deputies and fire officials testified to sharing the images, including “a deputy who said he showed graphic images from the scene while at a bar, another deputy who said he shared photos while playing a video game, a deputy who sent dozens of photos to someone he didn’t know, and a fire official who showed the images to other personnel during an awards ceremony cocktail hour,” per CNN. According to Los Angeles Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian, Bryant was awarded $16 million and Chester $15 million. After 11 days of testimony, including some during which Bryant “wept so hard her body shook and she appeared to be hiccuping and gasping for breath,” a federal jury has found that the L.A. County Sheriff and Fire Departments were at fault. Bryant had been seeking up to $42.5 million, and Chester up to $32.5 million.
Attorneys for the county argued that higher-ups acted correctly by quashing the photo sharing before they reached the media, calling it a “pictures case with no pictures.” Bryant’s lawyer, Luis Lu, argued that the county “poured salt into an unhealable wound, and that’s why we’re all here today.”