Many Georgia residents were shocked on Jan. 26 when media outlets reported that basketball superstar Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter accident along with his teenage daughter and seven other people. The Sikorsky S-76 struck a hillside near Calabasas as it made its way from Los Angeles to a youth basketball tournament in Ventura County. Weather conditions at the time were extremely foggy, and several experts have since questioned the decision to proceed with the flight. It has subsequently been revealed that the fog was heavy enough to inspire the Los Angeles Police Department to ground its entire helicopter fleet.
These questions have led to official and media scrutiny of the pilot and company that owned and managed the Sikorsky S-76. The accident has also given rise to several lawsuits. Bryant’s widow initiated wrongful death litigation against both the pilot and charter company in February, and two similar lawsuits were filed on April 19 by family members of four of the passengers who lost their lives. The pilot, who also died in the crash, is not named as a defendant in the latest lawsuits.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators have concluded that the fatal helicopter incident wasn’t caused by mechanical failure, and media outlets have reported that the pilot wasn’t certified to fly in heavy fog. The plaintiffs in the various wrongful death lawsuits claim that the charter company acted negligently and failed to take reasonable steps to protect passengers.
Wrongful death lawsuits are often settled before court proceedings commence because they can be costly to litigate and the damages awarded are often high. When the conclusions reached by government investigators suggest that negligence may have been a factor, a personal injury attorney may cite official reports to encourage a defendant to resolve these matters at the negotiating table.