All about Vanessa Bryant's wrongful death lawsuit against helicopter operator

Kobe Bryant and vanessa bryant
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Vanessa Bryant is suing the company that operated the helicopter that crashed into a hillside on January 26, killing her husband Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna, and seven others. "Defendant Island Express Helicopters authorized and/or permitted a flight with full knowledge that the subject helicopter was flying into unsafe weather conditions," the suit claims. The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court and also names the estate of the deceased helicopter pilot Ara Zobayan as a defendant.

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The crash happened when Ara Zobayan, who was Kobe's frequent pilot, was flying a group of people including Kobe and Gianna to the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, California. The helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport and crashed on a hillside in Calabasas while operating under foggy and cloudy conditions that had grounded police helicopters in the same area. The suit filed by Vanessa claims that the pilot did not "use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft." She is seeking general, economic, and punitive damages, although the suit doesn't say for how much.

The suit was filed on the same day as a memorial for the victims of the crash.

On Monday, thousands of people came together at the Staples Center in Los Angeles to celebrate the lives of everyone who died in the helicopter crash, including the pilot Ara Zobayan. It’s interesting that Vanessa and her lawyers chose to file the lawsuit on the same day that the memorial was being held, especially since plaintiffs have up to two years to file a wrongful death claim in California.


The pilot is accused of being negligent in multiple ways.

The suit lists eight different ways that Ara Zobayan allegedly failed to ensure the safety of his passengers including:

  • Failure to "properly monitor and assess the weather prior to takeoff."
  • Failure to "abort the flight when he knew of cloudy conditions."
  • Failure to "properly and safely operate the helicopter."

Then there's the mention of a disturbing incident in the pilot's past.

In May 2015, the pilot was cited by the Federal Aviation Administration for violating FAA rules. Basically, he flew into protected airspace around Los Angeles International Airport without permission and during reduced-visibility conditions. According to the FAA report, he admitted that he had made a mistake and "was willing to take any other necessary steps toward compliance."

Why is Island Express Helicopters being sued?

Among the many complaints against Island Express Helicopters, the lawsuit claims it is liable for the actions of its pilot, that the company failed to supervise him or train him adequately, and that it let him fly in dangerous weather conditions. Ara Zobayan had worked with the company for over 10 years and was its chief pilot. 

It should be noted that Island Express Inc. has suspended service on its own volition. On January 30, the company issued a statement via its website saying it was suspending service for the time being.


What's the real point of the lawsuit?

Believe it or not, people are coming down on Vanessa Bryant for suing. She's being accused of being greedy as if she's just doing it to get coin. We're sure she has plenty of money and that the point of the lawsuit is to hold those responsible accountable and to raise awareness so that crashes like this don't happen in the future. If the pilot and the company were not negligent, they will hopefully receive a fair trial and be cleared. If they were negligent, then they should be held responsible.

Topics: deaths