Vanessa Bryant has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company that operated the helicopter that crashed last month that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, her 13-yo daughter, and seven others.
The lawsuit argues that pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash, didn’t use ordinary care in operating the subject aircraft.
“Defendant Island Express Helicopters authorized, directed and/or permitted a flight with full knowledge that the subject helicopter was flying into unsafe weather conditions,” the suit claims.
The lawsuit says that Kobe Bryant died “as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan” for which “the company is vicariously liable in all respects.”
According to the lawsuit, Zobayan failed to abort the flight, failed to monitor and assess the weather and didn’t 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 lawsuit states.
Zobayan was flying Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and several of their friends to a basketball tournament at his Mamba Sports Academy when the helicopter crashed in Calabasas.
Zobayan was trying to fly through heavy fog that made it difficult to see. Kobe Bryant never indicated that anything was wrong as he sent text messages just before the crash.
Dan Rose, an aviation attorney and former military pilot, says the lawsuit is a formality that will let Vanessa Bryant and other victims’ families collect whatever insurance money the company has.
“Even if there was, let’s say, fifty million dollars in insurance, that would arguable in all likelihood not be enough to legally satisfy all the plaintiffs,” said Rose.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for Vanessa Bryant’s grief, loss of companionship and funeral expenses. It also asks for punitive damages to deter future wrongdoing.
“Acts and omissions of the defendant has manifested such reckless and complete indifference to and a conscious disregard for the safety of others,” the suit says.
Zobayan was the chief pilot for Island Express. The company has had at least three previous helicopter crashes since 1985, two of them fatal.