The Kobe Bryant Helicopter Crash

On January 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant and eight other people, including his daughter Gianna, were killed when their helicopter crashed in southern California. The passengers were on their way to a girls’ basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy.

What Caused the Helicopter to Crash?

The cause of the crash is still under review by the National Transportation Safety Board with the focus being on the weather that day. It has been reported that the weather was not conducive to flight travel, so much so that the Los Angeles Police Department had grounded its helicopters because of the low visibility from the fog. Minutes before the helicopter crashed, the pilot attempted to get special permission to fly through the fog. Following that he informed air traffic control that he was trying to avoid a cloud layer and seconds later the helicopter crashed. The investigation so far has not concluded why the helicopter crashed. There is not expected to be a final report for a year or more. A toxicology report on the pilot failed to show any evidence of alcohol or drug consumption.

Following the death of her husband and daughter, Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit. In the lawsuit she named three parties: Island Express Helicopters, Island Express Holding Corp, and the estate of the pilot, Ara Zobayan. It specifically asserts that the pilot was negligent by flying into conditions he wasn’t cleared for and failing to control the helicopter.

Two other lawsuits have also been filed that stem from this helicopter crash. These lawsuits from the other families who lost someone in the crash are not suing the Zobayan estate at this time. Instead, they are seeking wrongful death damages only against Island Express Helicopters.

In response to the wrongful death lawsuits, the helicopter company’s lawyers plead standard allegations of assumption of risk and comparative negligence. This means that they are saying the passengers either were somehow at fault for the crash or took it upon themselves to participate in a known risky activity

Why would the Defense Attorney for the Helicopter Company Blame Kobe Bryant for the Crash?

What’s the significance of these kinds of counter-allegations in response to a lawsuit? Nothing. This is standard, boilerplate language that defense attorneys utilize in responding to a legal complaint. This language is customary.

Is it upsetting to see this kind of language in response to the allegations raised in the Bryant lawsuit? Of course, it is. For instance, the attorney for the helicopter company pleaded in the answer to the complaint.

“Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent was directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent.”

This is difficult to read. However, this is how litigation works. It is not an easy process. The defense has the right and the obligation to assert what they believe are legitimate defenses, at least early in the case.