The Los Angeles County will pay the two families $ 1.25 million each after they accused the county’s first responders of improperly sharing photos of their relatives who died in a helicopter crash last year that also killed the NBA legend. -of Kobe Bryant, according to the proposed settlement terms posted by the county. Wednesday night.
Representatives of the county recently reached these waiting conditions with the Altobelli and Mauser families after suing the county for invasion of privacy and negligence. Their lawsuits were similar to two others that remain pending and went to trial in February – one filed by Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, and one by Chris Chester, the husband and father of two other accident victims.
The proposed settlements are subject to final approval by the LA County Board of Supervisors, which is expected next week.
“We believe these proposed $ 1.25 million solutions are reasonable and fair to all stakeholders,” said a statement from Skip Miller, county external counsel and partner of law firm Miller Barondess. “We are pleased that the Mauser and Altobelli families, who as private citizens suffered the same grief and loss as others, will be able to move forward behind these settlements. … We also hope that eventually other families will be able to do the same. ”
Plaintiffs Altobelli and Mauser had sought to recover damages for the emotional distress they said they suffered after learning of “savage” behavior from the county sheriff and firefighters. In their lawsuits, they said those employees had improperly taken and distributed photos of human remains from the scene of the January 2020 crash, including those of their family members.
County fees and costs in these two cases have gone up to about $ 1.3 million, according to a letter addressed to the county supervisory board by county councilor Rodrigo Castro-Silva. Payment of such fees and costs will be shared between the county sheriff’s existing budgets and the fire department, according to the letter. Castro-Silva recommended that the board approve the settlements and instruct the LA County Audit Officer to issue orders for their implementation from the sheriff’s and fire department budgets.
“Given the risks and uncertainties of the litigation, as well as the tragic accident that caused the lawsuit, fair and reasonable solutions at this time will avoid further litigation costs,” Castro-Silva wrote in his letter to the board. “Therefore, complete and final solutions of both cases are guaranteed.”
In his defense in the Bryant case, the county has said the photos were not posted online or “publicly distributed” beyond that of an isolated incident or two at a bar and a banquet.
But even though the county has decided to end these two cases, his legal battle with Vanessa Bryant has recently escalated.
In a ruling Tuesday, she won a court order to compel deposition evidence before the trial of LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Fire Chief Daryl Osby. Her legal team at Munger Tolles & Olson LLP wants to know more about what they did and knew about the photos, including the destruction of evidence about it.
MORE: On deposit, Kobe Bryant’s widow Vanessa recounts the day her husband and daughter died
MORE: Vanessa Bryant wins verdict against Los Angeles County sheriff and fire chief
Earlier this month, Bryant testified at her deposition and said she was seeking “responsibility” for how these images of the man and girl were distributed “as if they were animals on a street”.
“Are you asking for money in this lawsuit, yes or no?” asked Miller, the county attorney.
“It will depend on the jury,” Bryant replied, according to a transcript taken from USA TODAY Sports. “I do not – I’m not asking for a lot of dollars.”
College baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa were among the nine who died in the crash, including the pilot, Bryant, Bryant’s daughter, Gigi, basketball coach Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester and her daughter Payton. The families headed to a youth basketball tournament that day before foggy conditions led to the crash near Los Angeles.
Surviving members of the Bryant, Altobelli, Mauser and Chester families then filed two separate sets of civil lawsuits – one claiming unjust death against Island Express, the convicted helicopter owner and operator, and another against the county over human remains photos. from the place of collision.
Earlier this year, the families reached a confidential agreement in the Island Express case.
Regarding the photos, the fire department announced at least two employees that they would be fired for what they had done. The department told one of them in a letter that his photos from the crash scene had “no legitimate business purpose” and “served only to appeal to low instincts and desires for what constituted visual gossip,” according to data from court provided by USA TODAY. Sports. The department intended to fire the employee before he retired prematurely, citing his mental health.
The former employee, Brian Jordan, said he was obeying orders and was becoming a turkey head for the county’s own flaws, according to court documents.
In the lawsuits for the Altobelli and Mauser photographs, the families were represented by Panish Shea Boyle’s firm Ravipudi LLP. The firm also recently helped win a $ 1.8 billion settlement against Southern California Gas Co. and its parent company, Sempra Energy, to compensate thousands of plaintiffs from the 2015 Aliso Canyon natural gas explosion and leak near Los Angeles.
Follow journalist Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org