Kobe Bryant and Passengers to Blame For Fatal Crash, Says Pilot's Rep

It's been months since Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owned the helicopter that crashed while carrying Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and seven others.
By Elyse Dupre May 11, 2020 8:05 PMTags
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It's been almost three months since Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owned the helicopter that crashed while carrying Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant and seven others. Now, a representative for the helicopter pilot has issued a response.

Berge Zobayan, a personal representative for the late pilot Ara Zobayan, filed an answer with the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles on May 8. According to court documents obtained by E! News, Berge said the "answering defendant bears no responsibility" and alleged as one affirmative defense that any of the "injuries or damages" were caused "in full or in part by the negligence or fault" of the plaintiffs and/or their decedent.

"Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility," the documents stated for an affirmative defense regarding "comparative fault/assumption of risk of plaintiffs."

This marked only one of 13 affirmative defenses. Others addressed allegations of comparative fault of third parties, superseding cause and more.

E! News has reached out to Vanessa's team for comment, and Arthur I. Willner, Berge's attorney, had no further comment.

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In the 72-page lawsuit filed in February, Vanessa's attorneys claimed Island Express Helicopters, agents and employees, including Ara, had a "duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent pilot would use under the same or similar circumstances."

Ara was also accused of failing to properly monitor and assess weather conditions before takeoff, failing to obtain necessary weather data before the flight and failing to abort the flight after learning of the cloudy conditions. In addition, the pilot was accused of failing to properly maintain control of the helicopter in flight, failing to properly avoid natural obstacles in flight path, failing to keep a safe distance between the helicopter and natural obstacles, failing to properly and safely operate the helicopter and more.

The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified and punitive damages.

At the time, a spokesperson for Island Express Helicopters told E! News in a statement, "This was a tragic accident. We will have no comment on the pending litigation."

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers legend and his daughter died after the helicopter crashed in Calabasas, Calif. in January 2020. They were 41 years old and 13 years old, respectively. Seven others were killed in the crash, as well: Ara, John Altobelli, a baseball coach  at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa; his wife, Keri Altobelli; their daughter, Alyssa AltobelliChristina Mauser, an assistant basketball coach at Mamba Sports Academy; Payton Chester, a player on the team and her mother, Sarah Chester.

A public memorial service was held in February.