Judge dismisses suit by former fire captain who took Kobe Bryant crash photos

helicopter wreckage
Wreckage of the crashed helicopter that was carrying former NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna smolders on the ground on January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, California. Photo credit David McNew/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed against Los Angeles County by a retired fire captain, who maintained he followed orders and took photos of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash scene in 2020, but was not compensated for legal expenses after being sued.

Listen and subscribe to The L.A. Local podcast: your TL;DR for what's happening in Southern California

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie M. Bowick heard arguments on Monday regarding the county's motion to dismiss all of plaintiff Brian Jordan's suit. She took the case under submission and ruled Tuesday, dismissing Jordan's causes of action in an amended complaint that alleged retaliation, violation of the state Labor Code and declaratory relief.

Bowick stated in her ruling that she had already granted Jordan one chance to revise his lawsuit and that he had "failed to cure the defects."

The judge further said she did not see a "reasonable probability" that Jordan could file a viable amended complaint because of the statute of limitations and the plaintiff's failure to allege protected activity or retaliation that occurred while he was an employee and before his retirement.

"In sum, the court finds that leave to amend would be futile," the judge wrote.

The 56-year-old Jordan was called to the stand in the summer of 2022 in trial of the suit brought by Vanessa Bryant and Irvine financial advisor Christopher Chester. Jordan had been dismissed as a defendant in the Chester civil litigation in August 2021.

Jordan testified that he had little memory of the day or of seeing what he described as disturbing scenes that "are gonna haunt me forever."

Although some members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the county Fire Department, including Jordan, were ordered to take photographs of the accident scene, none of those scenes were publicized on television or on the internet, the suit stated.

Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and Chester's wife, Sarah, and 13-year-old daughter, Payton, were among the nine people killed in the crash. The federal suit alleged that the plaintiffs' constitutional rights were violated by the alleged taking and sharing of gruesome photos of the scene by deputies and Fire Department members.

In his suit, Jordan maintains he took images of the Jan. 26, 2020, crash site in Calabasas after being ordered to do so, then ended up being sued and forced to pay for attorneys' fees and costs to defend himself in the ensuing civil litigation. He seeks nearly $60,000 in attorneys' fees and costs, plus other damages.

But attorney Mira Hashmall, on behalf of the county, previously said Jordan's case has no merit because the county initially offered him legal counsel as a defendant in the federal lawsuit, once verbally and the second time in writing, before he hired his own attorney.

"As a result, the county informed him it was relieved of any obligation to pay for his defense, a fact we reiterated to Mr. Jordan in February when he changed his mind and demanded reimbursement for his individual legal expenses," Hashmall said. "The facts show that there is no valid cause of action for Mr. Jordan's lawsuit against the county and we'll be asking for the court to dismiss it."

In his suit, Jordan maintained that because he took pictures of the crash site, he was maligned by the department and wrongfully accused of sharing the photographs with third parties unrelated to the incident.

The Fire Department, through a deputy chief, suggested to Jordan that he lie as a witness and say that he did not take pictures, the suit states. The department later offered to pay for Jordan's legal defense if Jordan, who had already hired an attorney, changed lawyers, according to the suit filed in November 2022.

Knowing that the (department) was not acting in Jordan's best interest, he continued to accrue legal expenses as a direct consequence of the discharge of his duties done at his employer's direction, the suit stated.

In late 2021, Jordan presented proof that allegations made by Bryant's attorneys were false, but the county chose not to use the information, requiring the plaintiff to need more legal representation, the suit alleged.

"Jordan incurred reasonable cost and attorneys' fees in defending himself in actions and proceedings brought against him because of conduct that arose out of the acts performed in the course and scope of his employment," the suit stated. "(The county) refuse(s) to reimburse Jordan for those costs and attorneys fees."

In October 2020, Jordan's doctor told him he could not return to work due to a disability and when he researched his retirement option, he found out that the department had not picked up his claim, the suit states.

The federal jury in late August 2022 ordered the county to pay Vanessa Bryant and Chester collectively about $30 million. Bryant earlier this year reached a $28.85 million settlement in the case.

Follow KNX News 97.1 FM
Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok

Featured Image Photo Credit: David McNew/Getty Images