Vanessa Bryant Defends L.A. Location of Kobe Wrongful Death Case

Vanessa Bryant says her wrongful death suit for the January 26 helicopter crash that killed husband Kobe and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna should be adjudicated in Los Angeles.

Last month, TMZ reported that the family of deceased pilot Ara Zobayan — one of the defendants listed in Vanessa’s suit — has asked the judge to move the case from Los Angeles to Orange County because of Kobe’s popularity in L.A. County.

"No other single individual in recent memory, sports figure or otherwise, has been considered by the people to be such a personification of their city of Los Angeles," the Zobayan family said about Kobe, who played his entire 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers. "But with that unprecedented level of acclaim comes a lack of impartiality and objectivity by potential jurors about the merits under the law of the claims asserted in this lawsuit by the Bryant family."

The Zobayan family said the trial would already begin with "two strikes" against Ara "due to the extreme level of popularity of plaintiff with the jury pool."

However, TMZ reported on Wednesday that Vanessa’s counsel is asking the court to reject the venue change request as they claim Kobe was beloved worldwide.

"Defendant fails to acknowledge the extent to which Kobe Bryant’s legacy penetrates American culture," Vanessa's attorney says in new legal papers. "There is no county line at which Kobe Bryant’s celebrity suddenly evaporates. Public esteem for Kobe Bryant is a fact of American life."

Vanessa’s lawyers say they choose Los Angeles as the venue because that is where the crash occurred.

The court documents also refute the Zobayan family’s Orange County argument saying the Bryants have lived in the O.C. for nearly 20 years and Kobe's "popularity there is just as strong as anywhere else.”

Ultimately, a judge will decide where the legal proceedings will take place.

In February, Vanessa filed a wrongful death suit against a representative or successor for Ara, as well as helicopter owners Island Express Helicopters Inc., alleging negligence.

Months later in April, the surviving family members of college baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their 14-year-old daughter Alyssa, as well as girls' basketball coach Christina Mauser, filed separate wrongful death suits against Island Express.

Both Island Express and representatives for Ara have denied wrongdoing.

The crash also killed Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter Payton.


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