Vanessa Bryant v Island Express Helicopters Inc

On 26 January 2020, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, the famous American basketball icon, crashed in Calabasas, California killing all onboard, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna and 8 other people.

On 24 February 2020, a star-studded memorial was held in celebration of the 5-time NBA Champion and his daughter Gianna, which included an emotional speech by his wife Vanessa Bryant, that captured the hearts and emotions of those watching.

On the same day Vanessa Bryant initiated a civil lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court against the helicopter company – Island Express Helicopters Inc, its holding company – Island Express Holding Corp, as well as the estate of the pilot, Ara Zobayan.

Her claims are based on negligence causing wrongful death and also on a survival action. Whereas in wrongful death claims the quantum is limited to the suffering of the family, in a survival action the plaintiff can recover for the deceased’s suffering.

The plaintiff alleges that the defendants failed to use care in piloting the aircraft and failed to provide the relevant (highest) degree of care in assuring the airworthiness of it’s aircraft. The defendants are further accused of failing to use ordinary care in providing proper and safe aircraft services and had authorized the operation of an aircraft in a negligent, careless or reckless manner.

Both the helicopter and holding companies were also alleged to have failed to supervise their helicopter pilot, as both their employee and agent. The claim further cites the failure of the defendants to implement proper and reasonable flight safety rules and policies, as well as the failure to equip the helicopter with safety equipment.

Vanessa Bryant is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and media sources indicate that any financial recovery will largely be used for charitable purposes.

By Garnik Martirosov (Law Clerk) and Joseph Wheeler

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