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Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney > Blog > Wrongful Death > Vanessa Bryant Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Helicopter Company

Vanessa Bryant Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Helicopter Company


Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owned the helicopter and employed the pilot when Kobe and his daughter Gianna was killed. The lawsuit is filed against Island Express Helicopters which employed Ara Zobayan, the pilot that was operating the vehicle when it crashed.

The complaint states that the helicopter pilot failed to abide safety restrictions that should have prevented him from flying in high winds. The same pilot was cited for this before the deadly crash that killed Bryant, his daughter, and seven other people, including the pilot.

Vicarious Liability

The lawsuit is filed under a theory of vicarious liability and negligent hiring. Vanessa Bryant is accusing Island Express Helicopters of retaining a pilot that they knew had a history of violating safety best practices and this directly led to the tragic deaths.

Under a theory of vicarious liability, an employer does not need to be negligent for an accident. The plaintiff need only prove that the individual was an employee of the company and was acting in their capacity as an employee of the company when the crash occurred.

Alleging negligent hiring, training, or retention of under-qualified personnel, however, directly alleges that there was some negligence committed directly by the company. In fact, Vanessa Bryant appears to be alleging gross negligence as the complaint names punitive damages among the types of recovery the plaintiffs are hoping to get.

The 27-count complaint lists economic damages, general damages, and punitive damages—which are meant to punish a defendant for a particularly egregious act of negligence. The plaintiffs will use evidence of prior misdeeds surrounding the pilot who was flying the helicopter as evidence that the defendant was grossly negligent.

Most Likely Outcome 

In a case like this, especially a highly-publicized case involving one of the most beloved celebrities to ever play the game of basketball, the plaintiff usually has the upper hand. But the defendant has leverage too. That leverage is bankruptcy. If the plaintiff wins a nine-figure settlement, then the business will most likely declare bankruptcy.

There are two chapters of bankruptcy that companies can file under: Chapter 7 and Chapter 11. If the defendants file under Chapter 7, it would be tantamount to the dissolution of the business. The property owned by the business would be auctioned off to repay the personal injury judgment and other creditors.

If the company files under Chapter 11, the business would survive the lawsuit, but be required to make monthly payments to their creditors (including Vanessa Bryant). Additionally, some of their debts could be discharged if they could prove that they have no way of paying. This would be similar to the situation that plaintiffs are encountering in the FIU bridge collapse lawsuits.

Talk to a Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney 

If you’ve lost a loved one to someone else’s negligence, you can hold the negligent party accountable by filing a lawsuit against them. Call the Jacksonville personal injury attorneys at Gillette Law today to schedule a free consultation.




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