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Chances of lawsuit being filed due to Kobe Bryant helicopter crash very likely

Announcement of Kobe Bryant’s death on a billboard in Philadelphia on Jan. 28, 2020.  (Photo credit: Shutterstock.com / Fernando Esteban)

The horrific helicopter crash that took nine lives, including those of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, left a lot of people wondering who was at fault and to what extent the families of the deceased should be compensated.

Details surrounding the incident are still emerging. With an incident of that magnitude, evidence providing answers as to what really occurred can be difficult to determine.

This is what we do know. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash and has released minimal information, but the helicopter at issue was at least 28 years old. It was circling downtown Los Angeles at a very low altitude, which usually signifies fog. From Los Angeles, the helicopter headed toward Calabasas, but then headed toward some wooded area, which would normally suggest mechanical issues, unless again, the pilot was trying to avoid the fog.

According to the flight route, the pilot was not following instrument flight rules (IFR), which is the norm and allows for air traffic controls to assist during the flight, but instead employed the use of visual flight rules (VFR). If there was limited visibility at take-off, using the VFR could be a violation of NTSB regulations, which then calls the pilot’s actions into question.

There was talk that the helicopter was Kobe’s personal helicopter, but the title documents demonstrate that a holding company named Island Express was actually the owner of the helicopter. Island Express is a company that specializes in air tours. Interestingly enough, immediately preceding this accident, they were actively hiring, but shortly thereafter, they removed their company website and replaced it with a landing page suspending their services. The pilot, Ara Zobayan, was a chief pilot for Island Express and was with the company for over 10 years.

What’s also unknown is the full conversation that took place between the pilot and air control. We do know that they were contacted by the pilot and told Zobayan that when flying that low, there was no visibility and the FAA couldn’t provide them with more assistance at that level. What we don’t know is what else was said after that. It is possible air control gave Zobayan instruction to which he obliged, which then cost all of them their lives. It’s equally as possible that Zobayan did something different than what was instructed.

Unfortunately, when tragedy strikes like this, a lawsuit is coming — it’s inevitable. Lives were lost, people are hurt and upset, and someone has to pay. Who that someone is, remains unknown. Normally, when a lawsuit occurs, a plaintiff names all possible defendants in the suit and allows them to point blame at one another to absolve themselves of liability. The plaintiff will want to go after whoever has the deepest pockets and if that party would presumably have some sort of indemnity that would make the actual offending party responsible for reimbursing them if they were sued and had to pay out. No suits have yet been filed, but settlement talks have been in the works.