Vanessa Bryant's legal battle against Los Angeles County officials has come to an end.
On Aug. 24, after nearly two weeks of testimony from first responders and Vanessa herself, a jury reached a verdict and ordered Los Angeles County to pay Vanessa $16 million in damages. According to an eyewitness, Vanessa cried as the verdict was read after the jury spent less than five hours in deliberations.
The jury also awarded co-plaintiff Chris Chester $15 million in damages. His wife Sarah and 13-year-old daughter Payton were among the nine people who died in the January 2020 helicopter crash. NBA player Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant were also on board.
Lawyer Mira Hashmall, lead outside counsel for L.A. County in the case, said in a statement after the verdict, "We are grateful for the jury's hard work in this case. 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."
The statement said they will discuss next steps with their client, adding, "Meanwhile, we hope the Bryant and Chester families continue to heal from their tragic loss."
During the trial, which did not allow cameras in the courtroom, Vanessa took the stand and recounted the devastating moment she learned that several L.A. County sheriff's deputies and firefighters had allegedly shared unauthorized photos from the crash scene.
"I just remember not wanting to react with my girls in the room," she recalled on Aug. 19, adding that she "broke down and cried" after running out of the house. "I just felt like I wanted to run down the block and scream."
Describing herself as "blindsided, devastated, hurt and betrayed" by existence of the photos, Vanessa said she filed her lawsuit against the county because she "wanted answers."
"I live in fear every day," she explained, adding that she never wants her kids Natalia, 19, Bianka, 5, and Capri, 3, to ever see the pictures. "All you want to do is protect your babies."
Vanessa attended every day of the trial, sometimes wiping away tears and other times leaving the courtroom when testimony or evidence became too overwhelming to listen to.
Back in September 2020, Vanessa originally filed her lawsuit against Los Angeles County officials. In the lawsuit, obtained by E! News, Vanessa and her legal team alleged, "No fewer than eight sheriff's deputies at the crash site, pulled out their personal cell phones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents and coaches. The deputies took these photos for their own personal gratification."
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, including punitive damages.
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department previously released a statement on Sept. 22, 2020. "Shortly following this tragic crash, Sheriff Alex Villanueva sponsored legislation which now makes it a crime for public safety personnel to take or share non-official pictures of this nature," the statement read. "As a result of the swift actions we took under extraordinary circumstances, no pictures made it into the public arena. We continue to offer our heartfelt sympathies for the victims and their families."
The county of Los Angeles also argued that Vanessa's lawsuit was without legal merit, per the Aug. 3 defendants' trial brief obtained by E! News.