A lawsuit filed against Los Angeles County by a retired fire captain — who says he followed orders and took photos of the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash scene in 2020, but was not compensated for legal expenses after being sued — should be dismissed, an attorney for the county said on Thursday, Nov. 17, in response to the captain’s filed complaint.
Plaintiff Brian Jordan‘s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against the county alleges violations of the state Labor Code and Government Claims Act. He seeks nearly $60,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs, plus additional damages.
The 56-year-old Jordan was called to the stand this summer in trial of the suit federal brought by Vanessa Bryant and Irvine financial advisor Christopher Chester. Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and Chester’s wife, Sarah, and 13-year-old daughter, Payton, were among the nine people killed in the crash. The federal suit alleged that the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights were violated by the alleged taking and sharing of gruesome photos of the scene by deputies and Fire Department members.
In his lawsuit, Jordan maintains he took images of the Jan. 26, 2020, crash site in Calabasas after being ordered to do so, then ended up being sued and forced to pay for attorneys’ fees and costs to defend himself in the ensuing civil litigation. But attorney Mira Hashmall, on behalf of the county, said Jordan’s case has no merit because the county initially offered him legal counsel as a defendant in the federal lawsuit, once verbally and the second time in writing, before he hired his own attorney.
“As a result, the county informed him it was relieved of any obligation to pay for his defense, a fact we reiterated to Mr. Jordan in February when he changed his mind and demanded reimbursement for his individual legal expenses,” Hashmall said. “The facts show that there is no valid cause of action for Mr. Jordan’s lawsuit against the county and we’ll be asking for the court to dismiss it.”
In his suit, Jordan maintains that because he took pictures of the crash site, he was maligned by the department and wrongfully accused of sharing the photographs with third parties unrelated to the incident. Testifying in trial of the Bryant and Chester suits on Aug. 15, Jordan said he had little memory of the day or of seeing what he described as disturbing scenes that “are gonna haunt me forever.”
“While certain members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and (county Fire Department), including Jordan, were ordered to take photographs of the accident scene, none of those scenes were publicized on television or on the internet,” the suit states.
The Fire Department, through a deputy chief, suggested to Jordan that he lie as a witness and say that he did not take pictures, the suit states. The department later offered to pay for Jordan’s legal defense if Jordan, who had already hired an attorney, changed lawyers, according to the suit filed Nov. 10. Knowing that the (department) was not acting in Jordan’s best interest, he continued to accrue legal expenses as a direct consequence of the discharge of his duties done at his employer’s direction, the suit states. In late 2021, Jordan presented proof that allegations made by Bryant’s attorneys were false, but the county chose not to use the information, requiring the plaintiff to need more legal representation, the suit alleges. The suit does not state what allegations the Bryant attorneys made.
“Jordan incurred reasonable cost and attorneys’ fees in defending himself in actions and proceedings brought against him because of conduct that arose out of the acts performed in the course and scope of his employment,” the suit states. “(The county) refuse(s) to reimburse Jordan for those costs and attorneys fees.”
In October 2020, Jordan’s doctor told him he could not return to work due to a disability and when he researched his retirement option, he found out that the department had not picked up his claim, the suit states. The federal jury in late August ordered the county to pay Vanessa Bryant and Chester collectively about $30 million.