The $16 million verdict Vanessa Bryant was awarded by a federal jury on Wednesday is set to be reduced to $15 million after a juror discovered an error on the verdict form and informed the court about it.
Bryant, the widow of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, prevailed in her civil trial against Los Angeles County Wednesday after the jury of nine unanimously found the county liable for damages to her and her fellow plaintiff Chris Chester, who was awarded $15 million by the same jury.
“The nine jurors intended both plaintiffs Vanessa Bryant and Christopher Chester to be awarded equally,” U.S. District Judge John F. Walter noted in court Friday.
Bryant has agreed to this change. In court Friday, her attorney, Luis Li, said that Bryant felt it was a “just” result” that she got the same amount as Chester. Both had brought their cases to trial after filing lawsuits against the county several months after losing spouses and daughters in a helicopter crash in January 2020.
Their lawsuits were not about the crash itself but about what happened afterward. They accused county sheriffs and fire department employees of sharing and displaying gruesome photos of their deceased loved ones’ remains from the crash scene without having a legitimate business reason to do so.
After an 11-day trial, the jury found this to violate their constitutional rights. But after the verdict was read in court, one of the jurors advised the courtroom deputy that there was an error in the verdict form about Bryant.
In a jury note, the juror stated that Bryant should be awarded $1.5 million by the sheriff’s department for past emotional distress, not $2.5 million. The jury also awarded her $13.5 million in other damages for emotional distress. The change in the jury award means each will be awarded $15 million.
Li responded with a statement that asked about the change in jury award Friday.
“Throughout this case, Mrs. Bryant has sought only accountability,” Li said. “She has never asked for a specific dollar amount and has trusted the jury to do justice.”
Walter said it was unnecessary to recall the jury in light of Bryant’s agreement to accept $1 million less in emotional stress damages against the sheriff’s department.
Li said Bryant intends for her award to go to the Mamba and Mambacita foundation to honor Kobe and Gianna’s legacy.
“From the beginning, Vanessa Bryant has sought only accountability, but our legal system does not permit her to force better policies, more training or officer discipline,” Li said in a statement Thursday. “Those measures are the responsibility of the Sheriff’s and Fire Departments – responsibilities that Mrs. Bryant’s efforts have exposed as woefully deficient, even giving amnesty to the wrongdoers.”
The county noted the photos were never posted online and were deleted shortly after the crash.
Li said it is Bryant’s hope that “this important civil rights case will put to a stop this abhorrent and callous behavior.”