The Kobe Bryant tragedy, and wrongful death lawsuits | Allen and Allen

The Kobe Bryant tragedy, and wrongful death lawsuits

  • January 27, 2022
  • Blog

Most people know the legacy of Kobe Bryant and were saddened to hear about his tragic death, along with his daughter, in January of 2020 when the helicopter they were in crashed.

Kobe Bryant and his daughter

Photo credit: CNN.com

When we lose loved ones due to someone else’s negligence, the law allows us to recover damages for wrongful death. Kobe Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, filed a lawsuit against the estate of Ara Zobayan (the pilot of the helicopter) as well as Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corporation (the companies that operated the helicopter).

What is an administrator of the estate?

In order to file suit on behalf of someone who is deceased as a result of another person or company’s negligence, you need to have a representative qualify as the Administrator of the Estate of the deceased person(s). In the Kobe Bryant case, Vanessa Bryant qualified as the Administrator for both Kobe (her husband) and Gianna Bryant (her daughter). The rules for who can qualify as Administrator differ in every state. In Virginia, see Va. Code § 64.2-454, which governs the appointment of an administrator in wrongful death cases.

Kobe Bryant crash site

Photo credit: ABC News

What is a statutory beneficiary?

One of the first duties of the Administrator is to file a list of all the statutory beneficiaries with the Clerk of the Court. Virginia defines a specific group of people that can share the proceeds of a family member’s wrongful death in Va. Code § 8.01-53. The categories include:

  • Surviving spouse
  • Surviving children
  • Surviving children of a deceased child of the decedent
  • Surviving parents
  • Surviving brothers and sisters of the decedent
  • Other relatives primarily dependent on the decedent for support
  • Services and a member of the same household as the decedent (1)

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit alleges that the pilot should have canceled the flight when he became aware of the cloudy conditions. In addition, he failed to maintain a safe distance between the helicopter and natural obstacles. The owner, Island Express Holding Corp., is accused of failing to equip the helicopter with a traffic avoidance and warning system. Ms. Bryant’s claim against the helicopter’s operator alleges they knew or should have known that the helicopter was prohibited from use on foggy or cloudy days like the day of the crash.

Kobe Bryant memorial

Photo credit: Getty images

What can you be compensated for in a wrongful death lawsuit?

That lawsuit was settled before it went to trial. In Virginia, if a wrongful death case settles, the parties must go to court and have the settlement approved by the judge. The law defines what a loved one can be compensated for in a lawsuit for wrongful death. Those elements of loss include:

  1. Sorrow, mental anguish, and solace, which may include society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices, and advice of the decedent;
  2. Compensation for the reasonably expected loss of (i) income of the decedent and (ii) services, protection, care and assistance provided by the decedent;
  3. Expenses for the care, treatment, and hospitalization of the decedent incident to the injury resulting in death;
  4. Reasonable funeral expenses;
  5. Punitive damages may be recovered for willful or wanton conduct or such recklessness as evinces a conscious disregard for the safety of others.

It’s always good to seek the professional assistance of an attorney to help you navigate the legal struggles of a wrongful death lawsuit. The emotional struggle that the loved ones are going through can make it difficult to deal with the paperwork and legal issues.

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the compassionate attorneys at Allen & Allen for a free consultation today, at 866-388-1307.