Another Suit Filed Against LA County Fire Over Kobe Bryant Crash Photos

The Los Angeles County Fire Department is now facing a fifth lawsuit arising out of the photo-taking scandal surrounding the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash. The January 26, 2020 crash killed nine people including Bryant and his daughter.

Allegations surfaced that responders took and shared grisly photos of the victim’s bodies, prompting the California legislature to make the taking of such photos by first responders a criminal offense. More on California Penal Code § 647.9.

Three prior suits were brought by families of the deceased, including Vanessa Bryant, the family of Sarah Chester, and the family of Christina Mauser. These suits alleged violations of the Fourteenth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, along with state law claims for negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

A fourth suit was filed by an LA County Captain, Tony Imbrenda, alleging the county violated his rights under the California Firefighter Procedural Bill of Rights. Captain Imbrenda was a PIO at the scene and became the focus of an internal investigation.

The fifth suit was filed last month by John James Altobelli, whose sister (Alyssa Altobelli), mother (Keri Altobelli) and father (John Altobelli), died in the crash. As had been the case with the Bryant, Chester and Mauser suits, it was originally filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, and removed by the county to US District Court for the Central District of California. The removal was filed yesterday.

The Altobelli complaint alleges the same causes of action that were made in the Bryant, Chester, and Mauser cases. Here is a copy of the removal documentation along with the original complaint.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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