Ara Zobayan will be remembered as Kobe Bryant’s pilot who died in the same helicopter crash as the NBA legend. For some people, he is responsible for the crash. Kobe’s wife, Vanessa, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the helicopter company. Now Zobayan’s relative decided to respond to the lawsuit.
Berge Zobayan who happens to be a representative of the pilot, argues that the passengers have to be blamed for the crash.
“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 reads.
Vanessa accuses Kobe Bryant’s pilot
Bryant’s attorneys didn’t have a response to this. LA-based trial lawyer Tom Lallas believes responses of this kind are nothing but part of the trial preparation for cases like this.
“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,” Lallas said. “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.”
Zobayan’s response argues “any injuries or damages to plaintiffs and/or their decedent were directly caused in full or in part by the negligence, fault or wrongful conduct of third parties, whom this answering defendant neither controlled nor had the right to control, and for which this answering defendant bears no responsibility. Said acts or omissions comparatively reduce the percentage of negligence, fault and/or liability, if any of this answering defendant.”
According to Lallas, Zobayan’s legal team is actually “trying to preserve the right to attribute fault, blame or responsibility to someone else, and that’s just classic insurance defense 101 behavior. The first affirmative defense that lawyers always state in an answer is failure to state a claim. That doesn’t mean that the first amended complaint fails to state a claim, it’s just that the lawyers always want to preserve that affirmative defense.”
Nine people died in the crash
Kobe, Gigi, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli, Sarah Chester, Payton Chester and Christina Mauser lost their lives in the crash.
Vanessa filed a lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters, arguing that the pilot didn’t monitor and assess the weather prior to the takeoff. According to Vanessa, the pilot didn’t abort the flight when he knew about the terrible weather. Vanessa also accuses Zobayan of causing the crash, adding that he failed to properly and safely operate the aircraft.