The brother of the pilot who flew the helicopter in the crash that killed all nine people aboard including NBA icon Kobe Bryant and his daughter, blames the passengers for being at fault and negligent, according to recently filed court documents.
Attorneys for Berge Zobayan, who is listed as successor in interest for pilot Ara Zobayan, claim that “any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent was directly caused in full or in part by the negligence or fault of plaintiffs and/or their decedent,” CNN reported.
The filing, which was submitted on May 8, is an answer to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant.
Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died in the Jan. 26 crash in in Calabasas, Calif. The Sikorsky S-76B helicopter was not equipped with a terrain alarm system when it hit a hillside with “high-energy impact“.
“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,” the response stated.
Zobayan’s lawyers have requested judgment in his favor and for Vanessa’s lawsuit to be dismissed.
Los Angeles-based trial lawyer Tom Lallas told People that the response is standard in a wrongful death case.
“In order to preserve all of your defenses for trial, you have to state them as affirmative defenses at the time you file an answer,” said Lallas, managing partner of Levy, Small & Lallas. “That doesn’t mean that the defenses have any merit whatsoever or that there’s a factual basis for the defenses, it just means in an abundance of caution the lawyer representing the defendant is stating defenses that the lawyer anticipates might be a part of the case in discovery or trial.”
“The answer to the lawsuit doesn’t address how the passengers might have been negligent or assumed a risk. As for negligence…presumably, they were just sitting in their seats. As for assuming a risk…it’s unclear what risk falls on passengers of an aircraft when the pilot is in control,” TMZ reports.
In her complaint, filed on behalf of herself and her other three daughters, Vanessa Bryant holds Island Express, the helicopter company, and pilot Ara Zobayan responsible for the crash citing numerous counts of negligence, CNN reported.
She argued that Island Express “knew or should have known” that the pilot had been previously cited by the FAA for violating “the visual flight rules minimums by flying into an area of reduced visibility from weather conditions,” People reported.
Bryant and her daughters are seeking general, economic, and punitive damages.
The response said Berge Zobayan denies every allegation in Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit.
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Vanessa’s Bryant’s lawsuit wasn’t the only one filed against Island Express.
The families of crash victims Christina Mauser, as well as John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter, Alyssa, 14, filed wrongful death claims against the company.
The Mauser and Altobelli families filed separate complaints for damages claiming Island Express Helicopters was negligent and careless, CNN reported.
The helicopter crashed into hilly terrain in foggy conditions on January 26.
The crash victims also included Payton Chester, 13, and Sarah Chester, 45.