The families of four passengers killed in the helicopter crashed that claimed the lives of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter have filed wrongful death lawsuits in Los Angeles County Court, alleging the aviation company’s negligence and carelessness led to the crash.

One of the new lawsuits was brought by the surviving members of the Altobelli family for the wrongful deaths of John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and their teenage daughter Alyssa. The other lawsuit was filed on the same day by the family of Christina Mauser.

Both lawsuits follow a similar complaint against Express Helicopters brought by Kobe Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, in February. Ms. Bryant also alleges in her lawsuit that the company and pilot acted with negligence and carelessness in their operation of the flight that slammed into a Calabasas, California, hillside in heavy fog Jan. 26. All nine people aboard the helicopter were killed.

The Altobelli and Mauser families allege that Island Express was “negligent and careless, in regards to owning, leasing, managing, maintaining, controlling, entrusting, chartering, and operating the (helicopter) was the direct, legal and proximate cause, and were a substantial factor in causing, the deaths” of those on board, according to court documents.

Both families claim that by “reason of the careless, negligent, and unlawful acts and/or omissions of the defendants, and each of them…and as a direct consequence of the crash – have sustained wrongful death and survival damages, economic and non-economic damages, funeral and burial expenses, and all other damages.”

In the Kobe Bryant lawsuit, Vanessa Bryant claims that the helicopter shouldn’t have been operating in such poor and dangerous weather conditions. The complaint asserts that Island Express was restricted to operating by visual flight rules only, meaning it wasn’t permitted to fly in instrument meteorological conditions, such as night, heavy fog, and other conditions that diminish the pilot’s visual reference.

The Kobe Bryant lawsuit also notes that pilot Ara Zobayan had been disciplined previously for violating the visual minimum flight rules when he flew into airspace with bad visibility. Mr. Zobayan was an instrument-rated helicopter pilot who also taught other pilots how to navigate by instrument, but questions remain about his real-life experience flying in instrument conditions as well as the type of equipment aboard the 1991 Sikorsky S-76B helicopter.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) continues to investigate the crash.

Aviation litigation

Beasley Allen lawyer Mike Andrews focuses much of his practice on aviation litigation and currently represents families of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 victims involving the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. In addition to his Ethiopian Airlines crash clients, Mike has represented people seriously injured in a variety of aviation crashes, and the families of those killed in both civilian and military airplane crashes and helicopter crashes.

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