The ongoing trial of Vanessa Bryant vs. Los Angeles County is wrapping up with closing statements held on day 1o, Tuesday, August 23.
Vanessa sued the County, its Sheriff’s department, Fire Department, and eight officials for taking and sharing graphic images from the helicopter crash site where she lost her husband Kobe Bryant and her daughter Gianna.
The lawsuit was filed in September 2020, eight months after the tragic accident, and trials began on Wednesday, August 10. Chris Chester, who lost his wife Sarah Chester and their 13-year-old daughter Payton in the crash, was a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Plaintiffs Give Their Closing Argument
On Tuesday afternoon, Vanessa and Chester’s lawyers gave their closing arguments after the final round of witnesses earlier in the day. Craig Lavoie, one of Bryant’s attorneys, gave a 75-minute argument, urging the jurors to pronounce a verdict that gives dignity and respect to the dead.
“44 years ago today, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kobe Bryant was born,” Lavoie began. “Today is his birthday. And it’s an honor to be standing here asking for justice and accountability.” He reminded jurors of the conflicting testimonies from County officials, referencing acting deputy chief of the LACFD, Dennis Breshears’ testimony about a retired fire captain who submitted his county-owned laptop with a missing hard drive.
Lavoie explained, “If that’s what he says under oath in open court, what do you think he thinks of these victims’ remains while he’s alone with those photos at his home?”
Lavoie brought to mind Vanessa’s heart-wrenching testimony of how she found out about the leaked photos through a leaked Los Angeles Times article while nursing her then-five-month-old daughter.
He asked the jurors the percentage chance that the graphic photos could leak in the future. “I bet I’d get nine different answers,” Lavoie answered. “But whatever each of us thinks that number is, it’s definitely not zero,” and Bryant and Chester “don’t have the luxury of reducing it to a cold percentage.”
Vanessa’s lawyer was careful not to mention any amount but strongly urged the jurors to favor Bryant and Chester with their verdict.
Vanessa’s Co-plaintiff Requests Monetary Damages Of Up To $75 Million
Chester’s attorney Jerry Jackson had a shorter 25-minute argument highlighting the “clumsy” cover-up of the County officials. However, unlike Lavoie, Jackson recommended an amount to the jurors.
Jackson suggested to the jurors that the inappropriate behavior of the County officials warrants damages worth $2.5 million to both Bryant and Chester. He also recommended a range of $100,000 to $1 million in damages award for each year of future suffering for both plaintiffs.
Jackson noted that if he were a juror, he would go for $1 million as no amount can make up for what was done and the lack of accountability observed during the testimonies. With Bryant’s life expectancy estimated at 40 more years and Chester’s at 30 years, the damages award would amount to $75 million.
As for why he didn’t mention a specific amount for damages, Jackson stated, “You can’t stake it too high. You can’t spread it too wide.” He, however, elaborated on the emotional distress suffered by his client.
“They stole his dignity and his family’s privacy. They did it intentionally. They did it cruelly. They did it inhumanely. Then they laughed about it. Then they lied about,” he said of Mr. Chester.
Per reports, the County’s defense lawyer Mira Hashmall is supposed to wrap up the closing arguments with a possible rebuttal from Bryant and Chester’s lawyers before the jurors deliberate and give a verdict.