Captain Loses Suit Against LA County Over Kobe Bryant Crash Scene Photos

A lawsuit filed by a Los Angeles County fire captain caught up in the photo-taking scandal surrounding the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash, has been dismissed. Captain Brian Jordan sued the county to recoup the legal fees he incurred defending his actions when he was sued by the families of those killed in the crash.

The January 26, 2020 crash killed nine people including Bryant and his 13-year old daughter. The families of the victims sued the county as well as county sheriffs and county firefighters who allegedly took and shared grisly photos of the victim’s bodies. The scandal prompted the California legislature to make the taking of such photos by first responders a criminal offense.

Captain Jordan was named in the suits and his suit claimed he was forced to retain his own attorney to defend himself. He further claimed he was ordered to take the photos, and denied inappropriately sharing them. He was not held liable for damages and sought reimbursement for roughly $60,000 in legal expenses. He also alleged he was retaliated against in violation of his free speech rights.

The county argued that Captain Jordan’s case should be dismissed because they offered him legal counsel, but he opted to retain his own legal counsel. They further argued that he failed to comply the state’s tort claims act by filing a claim within six-months of the “accrual of the cause of action”, and failed to allege a cognizable free speech retaliation claim.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie M. Bowick concluded that Captain Jordan failed to comply with the tort claim notice requirement and that there was no free speech violation because the speech in question did not involve a matter of public concern. Here is a copy of the decision:

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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