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Vanessa Bryant and family settle claims over Kobe Bryant crash site photos for $28.5 million

The family of the late Kobe Bryant has agreed to a $28.5 million settlement with Los Angeles County to resolve the remaining claims in a lawsuit over deputies and firefighters sharing grisly photos of the NBA superstar, his 13-year-old daughter and others killed in a 2020 helicopter crash, attorneys and court filings said Tuesday.

The figure includes a newly agreed upon payment from the county of $13.5 million along with the $15 million a federal jury awarded Bryant's widow, Vanessa Bryant, at a trial in August.

Kobe Bryant Crash Photos
Vanessa Bryant, center, Kobe Bryant's widow, leaves a federal courthouse with her daughter, Natalia, left, and soccer player Sydney Leroux in Los Angeles on Aug. 24, 2022. Jae C. Hong / AP

While the initial $15 million was awarded to only Vanessa Bryant, the rest of the $28.85 million will be distributed to her three surviving daughters, Natalia, Bianka and Capri, CBS Los Angeles explained.

The agreement resolves any future claims by them, related issues pending in state court, and other costs. A proposed settlement order, which a judge must approve, was filed Tuesday in federal court.

Vanessa Bryant, LA County settle remaining legal claims 01:11

"Today marks the successful culmination of Mrs. Bryant's courageous battle to hold accountable those who engaged in this grotesque conduct," Bryant's attorney Luis Li 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. We hope her victory at trial and this settlement will put an end to this practice."

Mira Hashmall, the attorney representing L.A. County, called the statement "fair and reasonable" adding, "We hope Ms. Bryant and her children continue to heal from their loss."

Kobe Bryant, the former Lakers star, five-time NBA champion and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was traveling with Gianna and seven others to a youth basketball game when the helicopter they were aboard crashed into hills in Calabasas west of Los Angeles on Jan. 26, 2020.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: A fan poses by a mural of late Kobe Bryant, who perished one year ago alongside his daughter and seven others when their helicopter crashed into a hillside, in Los Angeles
A fan poses in January 2021 by a mural of late Kobe Bryant, who perished a year before along with his daughter and seven others when their helicopter crashed into a hillside in Los Angeles. Mario Anzuoni / REUTERS

Deputies and firefighters responding to the crash scene shot phone photos of the bodies and the wreckage, which Hashmall argued at trial were an essential part of assessing the situation.

But the pictures were shared, mostly among employees of the county sheriff's and fire departments, including some who were playing video games and attending an awards banquet. They were also seen by some of their spouses and in one case by a bartender at a bar where a deputy was drinking.

Li told jurors that the close-up photos had no official or investigative purpose and were mere "visual gossip" shared out of a gruesome curiosity.

Hashmall argued that the sheriff acted swiftly and appropriately when he ordered the photos deleted.

Vanessa Bryant tearfully testified during the 11-day trial that news of the photos compounded her still-raw grief a month after losing her husband and daughter and that she still has panic attacks at the thought that they might still be out there and her daughters might someday see them online.

The verdict in her favor was erroneously read as $16 million in court, but was later amended to $15 million.

Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the crash itself.

Chris Chester, Vanessa Bryant's co-plaintiff at the trial, was also awarded $15 million at trial, and reached his own settlement with the county in September for nearly $5 million more.

His wife and daughter were among the other crash victims, CBS L.A. says.

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