Vanessa Bryant Brings Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Helicopter Owner

On Feb. 24, 2020, attorneys for Vanessa Bryant brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of the helicopter that crashed last month, causing the deaths of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven other individuals. The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court while a memorial service took place at Staples Center, the arena where Kobe made much of his history.

In the complaint, Bryant alleges the pilot, Ara Zobayan, failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft.” Due to the severe fog and cloudy conditions back on Jan. 26, 2020, the suit argues that Zobayan was negligent and should have aborted the flight. The lawsuit also names Island Express Helicopters Inc., the owner of the helicopter, as well as Zobayan’s yet-to-be-named representative or successor.

Back in 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) cited Zobayan for flying into reduced visibility airspace. This directly conflicts with the FAA’s operating certificate for Island Express, which limits its pilots to flying under visual flight rules. This provides additional support for Bryant’s complaint; per the lawsuit, Island Express not only employed Zobayan with conscious disregard of the safety of others, but also failed to provide “adequate training and/or supervision” after the FAA citation.

Island Express suspended operations indefinitely following the crash.