After Vanessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters, the company that owned the aircraft, and Zobayan, who was piloting the flight, they have returned with an unsatisfactory response.
On January 26, nine people died in a tragic helicopter crash, including NBA Superstar Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna Maria Onore Bryant, and Ara Zobayan. The following month, a heartbroken mother and widow Vennessa Bryant filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters, the company that owned the aircraft, and Zobayan, who was piloting the flight when the aircraft crashed claiming everyone's life including his, reports USA Today. Now, a relative of the experienced pilot has responded to the suit claiming that the former L.A. Lakers player, his 13-year-old, and other passengers were responsible for their own deaths.
According to court documents obtains by ET Online, Berge Zobayan - representative for the late 50-year-old pilot, argued that the NBA player knew about the risks of flying, and thus his surviving family members were not entitled to any damages from the pilot's estate. "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," read the document filed by Berge.
This response, which also lists Bryant's daughters as plaintiff, was submitted on May 8 and requested a jury trial. Even Island Express provided an answer blaming the innocent passengers for flying on the aircraft despite knowing the risks. "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," said Island Express in its response concluding that Venessa Bryant has no case, according to TMZ.
Of course, they never explained how a 13-year-old girl comprehends such risks, and to shut down Venessa's case they pulled every argument in the book, including the Act of God. The company regarding the crash as an Act of God and said they were not responsible for the crash. Moreover, they simply turned the blame onto the passengers saying that they were negligent for flying in a helicopter which is "inherently dangerous." For them, the accident was a result "of an unavoidable accident."
Vanessa, on the other hand, does not agree with this. The mother of four filed a 72-page lawsuit which claimed that Zobayan "had a duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent pilot would use under the same or similar circumstances." The lawsuit cites claims that the late pilot "failed to properly monitor and assess the weather prior to takeoff," "failed to abort the flight when he knew of the cloudy conditions" and "failed to properly and safely operate the helicopter resulting in a crash," according to PEOPLE. It also cited multiple areas where Zobayan may have been negligent. It alleges that the Island Express Helicopters "knew or should have known" about the unfitness of Zobayan's skills stemming from a previous violation in 2015. Previously, Zoboyan has been cited by the FAA for violating "the visual flight rules minimums by flying into an area of reduced visibility from weather conditions." The 38-year-old and her daughters are now seeking economic, general, and punitive damages.
According to the flight tracking site FlightRadar24.com, Bryant's Sikorsky S-76B helicopter took off from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, at around 9:06 a.m. local time on that fateful day. They were on their way to a youth basketball game at his Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks when the helicopter, unfortunately, crashed into a mountain at around 10:00 a.m. killing everyone on board. In the days following the crash, Jennifer Homendy with The National Transportation Safety Board revealed during a press conference that the helicopter was not equipped with a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS). She believed that the system could have helped the pilot at preventing unintentional impacts with the ground. There was no evidence of engine failure or mechanical issues discovered by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The investigation is still in progress.