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Source: PATRICK T. FALLON / Getty

Vanessa Bryant and co-plaintiff Christopher Chester were victorious in their suit against Los Angeles County, as a federal jury awarded the pair $31 million in damages yesterday for the inappropriate sharing of photos from the 2020 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people.

The judgment was officially announced one day after what would have been the NBA legend’s 44th birthday. Vanessa Bryant cried as the verdict was read, hugged her lawyer and Chester, then left the courtroom without providing a statement. However, she later uploaded a pic of herself with her late husband and daughter to Instagram. “All for you! I love you! JUSTICE for Kobe and GiGi,” she captioned the post.

The jury listened to arguments from Luis Li, Bryant’s attorney, and county attorney Mira Hashmall, for 11 days and if the actions of members of the  Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and Fire departments truly reflected a “culture of callousness.”

There also was deliberation about what constitutes “the public,” given that images from the scene were made visible to non-essential persons. “This case has always been about accountability,” her attorney Luis Li said in a statement. “And now the jury has unanimously spoken.” Bryant will receive $16 million; the other $15 million was awarded to Chester.

“No pictures is good. No pictures means no public dissemination… no risk of other people making mistakes,” Hashmall said in her closing arguments. The defense was hoping the jury could make the distinction between the emotionality of the situation versus the actual infractions that took place. Hashmall also reiterated that no images have ever found their way to the general public, and that not even the families of the deceased have seen the crash photos.

“While we disagree with the jury’s findings as to the County’s liability, we believe the monetary award shows that jurors didn’t believe the evidence supported the Plaintiffs’ request of $75 million for emotional distress,” she said in a statement after the trial. “We will be discussing next steps with our client. Meanwhile, we hope the Bryant and Chester families continue to heal from their tragic loss.”

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