Tragedy struck the sports world in January when Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people died when the helicopter they were in crashed in foggy weather in Southern California. The tragedy sent shockwaves throughout the NBA and beyond, and it dominated the headlines across the country for days after it happened. Unfortunately, with a tragedy like this often comes lawsuits — and it’s no different this time. Bryant’s widow Vanessa has filed a lawsuit against the helicopter company, but could Kobe Bryant’s family also face a lawsuit?
Recapping the crash
Bryant and the others on the chopper were flying to a basketball game at his Mamba Sports Academy on January 26. Adverse weather conditions caused the helicopter to encounter problems in fog-induced low visibility.
The pilot reportedly tried to get the chopper to climb about 2,000 feet in a mountainous area, and it crashed into the hills. In addition to Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, others who perished in the crash included pilot Ara Zobayan– who regularly flew Bryant and his family in the chopper — and six friends of the Bryant family, including college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their daughter Alyssa.
Vanessa Bryant sues the helicopter company
Island Express Helicopters Inc. owned the helicopter, and the company has been named a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Bryant’s widow. Zobayan’s survivors are also among the suit’s defendants. The wrongful death suit alleges that Zobayan was negligent by flying in the foggy condition and should have aborted the flight.
The lawsuit alleges Zobayan was negligent in eight ways, including “failing to properly assess the weather, flying into conditions he wasn’t cleared for and failing to control the helicopter.” The lawsuit says Island Express is responsible for the pilot’s actions by allowing him to fly in the unsafe conditions while not implementing reasonable safety rules and policies for its flights.
The question is why Vanessa Bryant filed the lawsuit. Forbes estimated Kobe’s net worth to be about $600 million, so she certainly doesn’t need the money. One potential motivation for her to file the suit is to make sure people know the pilot and helicopter company are responsible for the crash.
Some people have blamed Kobe for insisting on taking the flight to the game as scheduled, even though the weather made for less-than-ideal conditions. By filing the suit, Vanessa may be hoping the defendants are found guilty and liable for the tragic crash, leading people to back off of putting the blame on Kobe.
Can the other families sue Kobe Bryant’s family for the crash?
The Bryants have filed their lawsuit, but can they also find themselves as defendants in another lawsuit related to the crash? It is possible that the family’s of the other victims in the crash could file wrongful death lawsuits of their own against the Bryant family.
It might not be easy to prove their case if they do sue, but they could argue that Kobe was negligent by insisting on flying to the school for the game when conditions were not favorable for a flight and agencies such as the LAPD had grounded their choppers that morning. The families likely know that it wouldn’t be easy to win a wrongful death case against the Bryants, so why might they decide to file one? Money.
The purpose of filing a suit against the Bryant family would probably be to hope the family’s lawyers would advise Vanessa to reach a settlement with the plaintiffs out of court. With the family’s net worth so high, the victims’ families could easily get millions of dollars each out of such a settlement. Such a lawsuit might not come right away, so as plaintiffs have two years to file a wrongful death suit in California.