How can any Court or County agree to award tens of millions of taxpayer money for the extremely limited sharing of graphic crash scene photos of Kobe Bryant taken by a county employee?

This is the height of fiscal irresponsibility and one of the reasons trial lawyers continue plundering our local, state, and federal treasuries.

Suppose any other citizen suffered a similar outrage and could afford high-priced attorneys. In that case, I do not think any jury, court, or government official would agree to pay this amount of money.

To believe that family members and other individuals who were awarded multiple millions suffered sufficiently to justify these awards is a testament to the government's fiscal irresponsibility. This is more money than inmates who were wrongfully convicted, and sentenced to death, received after 30 years of incarceration based on the manipulation of evidence and false testimony by government employees.

$51.3 million – without the costs of outside counsel to defend the matter…

LA County reaches $28.85 million settlement with Kobe Bryant's family

Los Angeles County has agreed to pay Vanessa Bryant and three of her daughters nearly $30 million to settle a lawsuit and potential future claims over the sharing of graphic photos taken by first responders at the helicopter crash that killed Bryant's husband, basketball star Kobe Bryant, and one of their daughters, according to a court filing on Tuesday.

The settlement includes the $15 million a jury awarded Vanessa Bryant in August, with additional funds to settle potential claims from her daughters. The Lakers legend and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among the nine people who perished in the Jan. 26, 2020, crash on a Calabasas hillside.

[OCS: The crash was attributed to a pilot error involving an unqualified pilot who encountered adverse weather conditions. The County has nothing to do with the crash. To believe that the limited release of the crash photos demanded tens of millions of taxpayer funds is a testament to government malfeasance and corruption.]

"We believe the settlement approved by the Board in the Bryant case is fair and reasonable," Mira Hashmall, lead trial counsel for the County in the case, said in a statement.

"The $28,850,000 settlement includes the verdict awarded by the federal jury in August 2022 and further resolves all outstanding issues related to pending legal claims in state court, future claims by the Bryant children, and other costs, with each party responsible for its respective attorneys' fees," she said.

"This settlement now concludes all County-related litigation related to the tragic January 2020 helicopter crash. We hope Ms. Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss."

[OCS: What else could Mira Hashmall, lead trial counsel for the County, say since she apparently could not successfully defend against this outrageous award? And why did the County outsource the defense to Mira Hashmall's law firm?] 

Vanessa Bryant and her co-plaintiff, Chris Chester — who lost his wife and daughter in the tragedy — sued for negligence and invasion of privacy in September 2020 and won at trial in Los Angeles federal court in August.

"Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant's courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct," Luis Li, Bryant's attorney, said in a statement.

"She fought for her husband, her daughter, and all those in the community whose deceased family were treated with similar disrespect," Li said. "We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice."

The Board of Supervisors agreed to pay Bryant's family $28.85 million to settle the widow's lawsuit and possible future claims by Bryant and daughters: Natalia, 20, Bianka, 6, and Capri, 3. The jury in downtown Los Angeles awarded Bryant and Chester $15 million each.

Late last year, the board approved an additional $4.95 million to Chester for the loss of his wife, Sarah, and their 13-year-old daughter Payton.

[OCS: At the trial, the jury also awarded $15 million to Chris Chester, who joined the suit because his wife Sarah, 45, and daughter, Payton, 13, were killed in the crash. Los Angeles County agreed to pay the Chester family an additional $4.95 million to resolve any future claims. <Source>]

Attorneys for Chester and Vanessa Bryant argued during the trial that the plaintiffs suffered emotional pain and suffering after learning that personal photos of human remains at the crash scene were snapped and displayed for no good reason to a bartender, attendees of an awards ceremony, and sent by a sheriff's deputy to a colleague while they were playing a video game.

The County did not dispute that some photos were shared with a small number of deputies and firefighters. But defense attorneys maintained that all images taken by first responders were destroyed on orders of the sheriff and fire chief, and no longer exist in any form. The photos never entered the public domain or appeared on the internet, the County insisted.

Along with Chester's and Bryant's loved ones, the crash killed Alyssa Altobelli, 14; Keri Altobelli, 46; John Altobelli, 56; Christina Mauser, 38; and pilot Ara Zobayan, 50.

Two other families settled with the County over the photos separately for $1.25 million each. All of the victims' families reached a settlement with the helicopter company over the crash, but those terms remain confidential. <Source>

Rewarding ineffective or incompetent government leadership...

In unrelated news, President Joe Biden has nominated former California Labor and Workforce Development Agency Secretary Julie Su to become his Secretary of Labor. Despite the issue of presiding over the 40 billion dollar fraud loss by the Employment Development Department (EDD) during the pandemic. EDD apparently ignored a $5 million add-on security program that would have mitigated most of the fraudulent claims. 

Bottom line…

By my count, that is 51.3 million dollars for a government employee releasing graphic photos of a crash scene to an extremely small audience.

This is the height of fiscal irresponsibility.

If local governments can't defend against outrageous cases, perhaps everyone in the prosecutor's office should be terminated and replaced by competent personnel. I believe this became a racialized political issue and that county leadership did not want to look bad by denying the uber-wealthy family of a sports icon additional millions to soothe their suffering over just knowing such pictures exist.

Someone should sue to release the pictures into the public domain since the public has paid mightily for that right – and terminate anyone who destroyed official records to prevent their disclosure. After all, a few million would have paid for lifetime mental health counseling for all concerned.

We are so screwed.

-- Steve

“Nullius in verba”-- take nobody's word for it!
"Acta non verba" -- actions not words

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

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