Helicopter Company: Kobe Bryant, Gianna 'Voluntarily Assumed the Risk' of Crash

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMay 12, 2020

The retired jerseys of the late Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant hangs in the rafters, prior the Lakers' NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers in Los Angeles, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

The Island Express company that owned the helicopter that crashed Jan. 26 and killed nine people, including Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, responded to a wrongful death lawsuit and said the passengers "voluntarily assumed the risk of the accident" when they were on board.

TMZ reported the news, noting Island Express filed an answer to the wrongful death lawsuit that Vanessa Bryant filed after her husband and daughter died.

"Kobe Bryant and GB [Gigi] had actual knowledge of all of the circumstances, particular dangers, and an appreciation of the risks involved and the magnitude thereof, and proceeded to encounter a known risk, and voluntarily assumed the risk of the accident, injury ... thereby barring or reducing [Vanessa's] claim for damages" the company said.

In February, Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times reported Vanessa filed a 27-count complaint to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, naming pilot Ara George Zobayan's estate as a defendant along with Island Express.

The complaint said Zobayan, who also died in the crash, did not "use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft."

It also said Kobe died "as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan" and added "the company is vicariously liable in all respects" and "authorized, directed and/or permitted a flight with full knowledge that the subject helicopter was flying into unsafe weather conditions."

A relative of Zobayan echoed Island Express' response and said the blame should not fall entirely on the pilot, per TMZ:

"Any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent, including their knowing and voluntary encounter with the risks involved, and that this negligence was a substantial factor in causing their purported damages, for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility."

TMZ noted the Los Angeles Police Department was among those who grounded their helicopter fleet that day because of fog and poor visibility.

The report also pointed out the helicopter was traveling at 184 miles per hour when it crashed.