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Vanessa Bryant files wrongful death suit against helicopter operator in Kobe Bryant crash

SoCalDave

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We knew this was coming...

As mourners gathered at Staples Center on Monday for a memorial service to celebrate the lives of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, attorneys for Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that operated the helicopter that crashed last month, killing her husband, daughter and seven others.

The complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp. alleges that pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash in Calabasas, failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” and was negligent.

The lawsuit says the company’s “breach of its duty and negligence” caused injuries and damages and that the death of Bryant was “a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan,” which the company is “vicariously liable in all respects.”

Vanessa Bryant at the Kobe & Gianna Bryant ‘Celebration of Life’ ceremony at Staples Center
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The 27-count complaint, which also names Zobayan’s estate as a defendant, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. An attorney for Vanessa Bryant didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

While flying to a youth basketball game at Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks on Jan. 26, the 1991 Sikorsky S-76B crashed into a hillside in Calabasas amid dense fog. Zobayan and all eight passengers aboard died. A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board found no engine or mechanical failure.

The lawsuit accuses Zobayan, Bryant’s longtime pilot, of several acts of negligence including failing to abort the flight, failing to monitor and assess the weather, and failure to keep a safe distance between natural obstacles and the helicopter.

“On information and belief, Defendant Island Express Helicopters employed Defendant Zobayan with conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others and authorized or ratified his wrong conduct, and itself engaged in conduct with malice, oppression, or fraud,” the complaint states.



The lawsuit notes that the Federal Aviation Administration cited Zobayan in 2015 for violating visual flight rules minimums and that the FAA operating certificate for Island Express limited its pilots to flying under visual flight rules, not conditions that necessitated the use of instruments.

“Defendant Island Express Helicopters authorized, directed and/or permitted with full knowledge that the subject helicopter was flying into unsafe weather conditions,” the complaint says.

It adds that the company “promoted and engaged in unnecessary and needlessly risky means of transport under the circumstances.”
 

LargeOrangeFont

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I had heard damages are to cover funeral and burial costs. Don’t know how accurate that is.
 

Ziggy

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Surprised it's so soon and before any official FAA report but I guess throwing it out there while the mourning is still prevalent adds to the public opinion.
Sad on all fronts regardless.
 

RiverDave

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Surprised it's so soon and before any official FAA report but I guess throwing it out there while the mourning is still prevalent adds to the public opinion.
Sad on all fronts regardless.
I am surprised they found no mechanical failures already as well? Doesn't that usually take months?

RD
 

hallett21

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I am surprised they found no mechanical failures already as well? Doesn't that usually take months?

RD
I thought the reports took 12-18 months


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LargeOrangeFont

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I am surprised they found no mechanical failures already as well? Doesn't that usually take months?

RD
They were not permitted to do that type of flight in the first place is my understanding.

There were no failures. Pilot was in over his head before he started circling in the Burbank Airport holding area. He just had too much going on. He should have landed in Van Nuys and called some black cars to get the passengers where they were going. They would have been pissed, but alive.

The audio is pretty telling, and my guess is that this is why the suit was filed now, along with flying in those conditions when they shouldn’t have.

If Vanessa is truly just suing for the funeral and burial expenses, this will likely be settled out of court anyway.
 
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mbrown2

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9 times out of 10 I say no to lawsuits...accidents happen, but looking at this flight I think most of us think this captain was in over his head. He made mistakes which his company and their insurance needs to cover. Likely people are going to come after her estate so like a fender bender she needs to sue the person that hit her. Not sure on the timing would have waited until after the memorial.
 

530RL

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These lawsuits are typical moves in maximizing the total amount of insurance coverage and maximizing the total recovery.

This is just a function of our legal system, not a reflection on Ms. Bryant or any other passengers which may file similar claims.
 

Chili Palmer

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Its not going to bring them back , simply anger and revenge
Well maybe, but the flight outfit needs to be held liable for the deaths that occurred while the pilot who worked for them undertook this job. I'm sure it was a high paying gig and Kobe probably tipped him well, but the pilot should have not flown in those conditions or as said earlier, landed at an accessible airport and used limos for the remainder of the trip. Whatever monetary damages are paid out to the deceased's family (the Bryants), they should go to funeral expenses and philanthropic work spelled out in the lawsuit.
 

SOCALCRICKETT

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She has the pockets to cover expenses. Maybe she is listed on the suit because she can afford the hot rod attorney, then give funds to those that would benefit more from it.


... i know, i know, its a long shot but trying to ve optimistic

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Bigbore500r

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Any move being made is most likely being orchestrated by advisers and attorneys of their estate and businesses. She doesn't need the money, but there are probably things behind the scenes that need to be done, possibly as a CYA, and possibly to help those other families impacted by the tragedy.
 

JUSTWANNARACE

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There is alot of reasons they are doing this, life insurance is a big one.

I would bet that Vanessa will make sure the funeral costs are covered for all involved(except maybe the pilot). Sounds like they where all pretty close. And what I've seen and heard of her shes not a gold digger persay.. this was most likely brought to her by their lawyers, she probably did not pursue this on her own. Jmo
 

Tank

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I only recently realized the company that flew the helicopter is the same company that runs transportation to Catalina island (island express). We’ve flown with them countless times. It appears they shut everything down upon the crash. They were in biz a long time.
74D23BE2-666F-403B-8869-B710ABDB19DB.png
 

oldschool

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I only recently realized the company that flew the helicopter is the same company that runs transportation to Catalina island (island express). We’ve flown with them countless times. It appears they shut everything down upon the crash. They were in biz a long time.
View attachment 847783
Yep. My brother lives and works(Avalon Fire) on the island and was telling me about it.
 

BONER

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Hopefully to cover the funeral costs of those involved. I find it hard to believe that vanessa bryant is running low on money.
Maybe not running low on money, but her income just hit the Shitter...
 

Boat 405

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I’d be willing to bet. The pilot said conditions are bad. Not worth it. Big name customer says go. Pilot gives in to big name customer not wanting to lose business or get a bad name. Tragedy strikes. The rest is just paperwork for miles with no witnesses to tell the story. So it’s really just a fucked deal all around.
 

stephenkatsea

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IMHO-Attorneys would likely get no share of the monies left to Vanessa and the girls from Kobie’s tragic death. But, a successful legal judgement brought against Island Express is a different animal, if there were to be one. Attorneys would likely receive a healthy share of a judgement brought against Island Express and also the estate of the pilot.
 

was thatguy

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Guy crashed in the fog while piloting a for hire craft in ill advised (if not necessarily illegal) conditions and killed 8 people.
Who here believed there would be no lawsuit?
 

WhatExit?

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It's like the ocean where the big fish eat the small fish and there's almost always a bigger fish (predator) out there.

So many lawyers in every direction. An incident like this brings out all the sharks.

It will be interesting to see what she does with the millions she'll get from this lawsuit.
 

stephenkatsea

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Your not going to see it in the press, but today Vanessa Bryant provided private coaches and Staple Center reserved seating for any students of Harbor Day School (Gigi’s school) and their parents who wished to attend today’s Celebration of Life. Our 13 yr old niece and her Mom were able to attend today because of Vanessa’s thoughtful offer and coordination. Believe there were 2 other Harbor Day School students and a coach who perished in the crash. Today all of these young kids from the school were able to attend together. As many had been since 2nd grade.
 

Deja_Vu

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She will most likely donate the money to the other victims and charity.
 

Mr. C

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That's what they did with the $$$ from today's memorial. Lower bowl seats were going for $224.00 a seat.
It will never probably be shared but I wonder what percentage of that 224 a ticket actually gets to a charity. I mean. After everybody else involved takes their cut. Maybe 3 - 5 percent.


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Bobby V

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It will never probably be shared but I wonder what percentage of that 224 a ticket actually gets to a charity. I mean. After everybody else involved takes their cut. Maybe 3 - 5 percent.


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I only heard about the $$$ going to the other families. Not sure about any charities.
 

Mr. C

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I only heard about the $$$ going to the other families. Not sure about any charities.
Edit charities with families. Same percentage probably.


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jetur3

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Obviously the pilot didn't mean to crash everyone. Most pilots have bent vfr rules, I know I have but only with me in the aircraft. It's your job as a vfr pilot to fly only in vfr conditions, even if you're checked out as an ifr pilot the aircraft may not be equiped for it.

That being said, these decisions are typically left up to the pilot not the charter agency. So it's probably not fair to sue the company but you know how these things go. It's their insurance, liability, ECT.

My thought is she's sueing them to get them out of business to ensure this doesn't happen again.
 

Singleton

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This was done to protect the Kobe estate.
kobe invited every one of those other guests on the ride. Some of my wife’s co-workers know some of the other victims, they are being pressured to file a lawsuit against Kobe’s estate. One family has had over 20 lawyers make contact with them, trying to get them to file. If it was not for the friendship they had with Kobe and actions Vanessa has done since the accident things might be different.
 

Mr. C

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Who do you think gets the rest of the %.
I guess I don’t think staples is picking up the tab for all the people working it. Etc etc after all is paid I bet the percentage of what comes in and what goes out is staggering.


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Singleton

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I guess I don’t think staples is picking up the tab for all the people working it. Etc etc after all is paid I bet the percentage of what comes in and what goes out is staggering.


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Lakers are paying the Staples Center bill and PD bills based on what I am hearing. The event was ran by Kobe’s charity as well, thus allowing organizations that normally change money to support events at the SC, can donate those expenses
 

Mr. C

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Lakers are paying the Staples Center bill and PD bills based on what I am hearing. The event was ran by Kobe’s charity as well, thus allowing organizations that normally change money to support events at the SC, can donate those expenses
All good. But not being a believer in most charities and where the money goes. It just means the organizations use it as a tax free and keep most monies for themselves. People up top in those organizations are the ones seeing a profit. Jmho.


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Singleton

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All good. But not being a believer in most charities and where the money goes. It just means the organizations use it as a tax free and keep most monies for themselves. People up top in those organizations are the ones seeing a profit. Jmho.


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agreed. the % of money that goes to helping is so low in most organizations, it’s crazy
 

Performance Grips

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It's funny how some people always seem to find the negatives in situations. I for one think the families will be very well taken care of. From what I have personally seen at the mamba facility and people donating and buying overpriced merchandise to help the other families. But many will come on here and try to bring up negative thoughts they don't even know to be true. It's pretty sad to have that mind set. I know people care about the other families and are doing the right thing to help.
 

rrrr

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Surprised it's so soon and before any official FAA report but I guess throwing it out there while the mourning is still prevalent adds to the public opinion.
Sad on all fronts regardless.

By law NTSB reports cannot be used in any court proceedings.
 

zx14

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I’ve taken island express out of San Pedro, beside that big bridge down there to Catalina , used to do some work out there on the comms towers, I remember many times sitting there waiting for the fog to lift, or, taking off and flying up and down the coast looking for a break in the fog to the island, I remember the pilot saying that they had to be able to see the ground, or water to fly me over. I never new about all these rules, I always thought aircraft had radar to fly in the dark or fog, least for me, he followed the rules.
 

SnoC653

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They were not permitted to do that type of flight in the first place is my understanding.

There were no failures. Pilot was in over his head before he started circling in the Burbank Airport holding area. He just had too much going on. He should have landed in Van Nuys and called some black cars to get the passengers where they were going. They would have been pissed, but alive.

The audio is pretty telling, and my guess is that this is why the suit was filed now, along with flying in those conditions when they shouldn’t have.

If Vanessa is truly just suing for the funeral and burial expenses, this will likely be settled out of court anyway.
For clarification and not trying to discredit your opinion, but:

This is incorrect except for the part where you said it was your understanding. They were flying VFR of which Special VFR is a sub-category. The pilot was trained in and tested on IFR flying and recovery if inadvertently finding himself in IFR. He did this training and testing in a helicopter. This is above and beyond what he is required to do for his flight review and currency flights. Van Nuys was IFR and would have taken time to get permission to land there. Transitioning the airspace is way easier than getting a special VFR landing clearance. And nobody knows what the conversation was in the helicopter. Did the pilot suggest landing and the passengers taking ground transportation? Did he discuss the risks of pushing on in the air? The suite acknowledges that he was Kobe's long time pilot. Did Kobe tell him, that he trusted him and to keep going? We don't know. Were there text messages or Tweets from any of the passengers expressing their fear? None have been released so lets go with NO. And just because the Sheriff's Office grounded their aircraft doesn't mean the weather wasn't flyable. Perhaps they knew their aircraft were not properly maintained and didn't want to risk it? They might have an insurance company that does not allow them to fly in minimum weather (EMS and LEO crashes in marginal weather is probably the number one source of controlled flight into terrain accidents).

You may think you know what the audio tells, but to a trained and experienced helicopter pilot it tells that the pilot was following the rules and was working to get the job done. They made it to within 100 feet of the reported tops of the clouds before they started to descend. That means they were within a few seconds of being good to go. Despite the tragic way it all ended. The FAA has not ruled out a failure. They said the engines were running and they found no mechanical malfunction that would have caused the aircraft to loose power. It flew into the ground under power. They took the gyroscopic instruments for further testing. In other words they took things like the Attitude Indicator, stability augmentation system, and other flight instruments to test for malfunctions which could have contributed to the accident. Had the Attitude indicator started to fail, it could have caused this exact accident. It would still be pilot error, but the facts on the pilot being trained and capable of flying in the conditions he was, wouldn't have changed. Anyone with flight knowledge would agree he had all the appropriate training to be flying in the weather he was flying it. Something went wrong. He could have had a medical condition like an inner ear problem that he wasn't aware of at the time of the flight. There are a great deal of factors the FAA still needs to check before they release their final findings and make recommendations. Take offs are always optional. Landing is a mandatory fact after they take off. This landing wasn't a good one.

If you want my opinion on why she is suing, it is to get ahead of the law suits coming her way. Her husband invited the other victims and as a result they are dead. His pilot was flying an aircraft he rented. Kobe has a large estate and has deeper pockets than the charter company. Arguably he had the responsibility to cancel the flight. He wasn't a novice at using helicopters to shuttle around. His friends trusted his judgement and experience and are dead as a result. She is suing to divert the liability from her husband (and his estate) to the charter company.
 

84miller

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Surprised it's so soon and before any official FAA report but I guess throwing it out there while the mourning is still prevalent adds to the public opinion.
Sad on all fronts regardless.
I hear what you are saying waiting for the FAA report. I am thinking and could be wrong...filing will now put in a place holder incase the company goes out of business, losses/cancels it's causality insurance, files bankruptcy or some other avoidance of having the money to pay out. I also suspect the other passengers should be filing.
 

Ziggy

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I hear what you are saying waiting for the FAA report. I am thinking and could be wrong...filing will now put in a place holder incase the company goes out of business, losses/cancels it's causality insurance, files bankruptcy or some other avoidance of having the money to pay out. I also suspect the other passengers should be filing.
I supposed it's all preemptive posturing.
 

jones performance

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Strategic move to offset future legal costs from other suits, which will certainly get filed.
exactly, shes doing this to protect herself from the lawsuits that are going to come from the other peoples insurance, family etc. they will go after the one with the deepest pockets, and since bryant probably invited the others to come along (pure speculation but plausible) that would make him a responsible party i beleive.
 

530RL

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exactly, shes doing this to protect herself from the lawsuits that are going to come from the other peoples insurance, family etc. they will go after the one with the deepest pockets, and since bryant probably invited the others to come along (pure speculation but plausible) that would make him a responsible party i beleive.

For discussion purposes, let's say you are going to Vegas on American Airlines, you want to take a couple friends and so you buy their tickets. You are not the pilot, you don't own the airline, you are not an officer or employee of the airline, you are just a customer and paid for some friends seats. Would you be liable?

Anyone can sue for anything, but I am not sure what the basis is given Kobe had no authority over the decision to fly, he just paid for the seats. I think that claim if made gets tossed on legal motions.

Everyone does have a claim against the pilot and against the charter company, and possibly the manufacturer and maintainer of the aircraft.

Personally, I believe that suits will be filed with a litany of different legal theories for the purpose of expanding the pot of money so that it becomes as large as possible. And most likely, the insurance companies will work to limit their exposure to policy limits and not beyond. And then there will be a "discussion" amongst the parties on how to divvy up that pool of money which is where if the parties can not come to an agreement, they will fight with each other on how to divide the pot up.

Lastly, one has to remember that Part 135 commercial helicopter operations are statistically much more dangerous than Part 121 commercial airline service. If they both had the same accident rate, we would be having a commercial airliner going down every 5 days or so......

 
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