top of page
  • Rachael Vaughn

Vanessa Bryant Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit

On the Day of Kobe and Gianna’s Memorial Service

The lawsuit was filed shortly before the Memorial Service honoring Kobe and his daughter Gianna.

The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court alleges that Island Express Helicopters put the helicopter in the air when the weather conditions were not safe for flying. Further, it states that the company and the helicopter's pilot, Ara George Zobayan, had a "duty to use that degree of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent pilot would use under the same or similar circumstances”, which allegedly neither parties assessed. Additional allegations include that the pilot failed to abort the flight even though he knew of cloudy conditions, and that Zobayan flew the helicopter into conditions in which he could not viably navigate using visual references. Since he did not have visibility, he used instrument flight rules (IFR), which he was certified. However, the company Island Express Helicopters, did not have certification, and therefore Zobayan should have been restricted to the company’s licensing.

Aircraft crashes are not as uncommon as suspected, like the tragic plane crash Kimmel Carter partners Larry Kimmel and Bill Peltz settled for $840,000. The small plane was a Beech Baron Aircraft. Kimmel and Peltz claimed the faulty fuel gauge was the culprit in the plane’s malfunction.

Does Insurance Cover This?

Only 11 states require either General Aviation (GA) liability insurance coverage or aircraft financial-responsibility requirements, which require GA aircraft owners to demonstrate financial ability to cover potential losses incurred in an accident.

In 2015 a report was released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that researched the plausibility of enforcing a federal minimum requirement for GA aircraft owners and operators.

Commercial air carriers are required to have insurance, which is usually calculated by the passenger capacity of the aircraft, yet there are no legal requirements for General Aviation (GA) insurance in 39 states.

In the case of the Kobe Bryant crash, California requires that the owner/operator provides proof of financial responsibility should a crash occur, but does not have a minimum liability limit.

It is unclear what type of insurance policy Island Express - the helicopter company that owned the helicopter involved in the accident - has for its aircraft.

Optional insurance called “hull coverage” can be purchased and covers damages sustained to the aircraft (with exceptions).

Coverage Explained

Even though the majority of states do not require GA liability insurance, it is estimated that half of aircraft owners and operators pay for a policy.

  • $1 million per occurrence (i.e., accident) with a $100,000 per passenger sublimit (referred to as a “$1 million/$100K policy”), meaning the insurance policy limits the coverage for each passenger in the aircraft to $100,000. This limitation does not apply to victims on the ground

  • $1 million per occurrence with no sublimit (referred to as a “$1 million smooth policy”), meaning the policy can offer higher coverage to passengers up to the maximum total policy limit, depending on the accident scenario

Both of these options are relatively affordable, with the $1 million/$100K policy premiums costing $125 - $1,500 annually. Comparatively, the $1 million smooth policy premiums are $450 - $3,500 per year. Pilots can purchase “renters insurance” for helicopters they operate but do not own, with premiums averaging a reasonable $200 per year for $1 million/$100k policy.

More Than Emotional Losses

Crashes involving uninsured or underinsured GA aircraft owners have occurred where passengers who incurred losses received little or no compensation.

The GAO conducted a survey of aviation attorneys, which is mentioned in its report. Its findings were enlightening:

  • Three aviation attorneys polled declined to take cases where there is no liability insurance, because it was unlikely that the victim could obtain compensation from the GA aircraft owner or his or her estate.

  • The magnitude of injury that can occur—in the millions of dollars, in some cases—was indicated as part of the problem.

  • All 11 aviation attorneys surveyed noted that accidents involving underinsured owners or pilots are more prevalent than those where there is no liability insurance.

  • The aircraft owner or pilot involved in an accident had liability insurance; however, the liability insurance’s limit–often $100,000 per passenger- was frequently insufficient to compensate victims or their families in accidents involving death or serious injury.

It is crucial to have a knowledgeable, experienced, and determined attorney to represent you, to receive the compensation you deserve.


Delaware does not require aircraft owners and operators to be insured. This can make it even more difficult on the affected parties and their families who have to bear the full costs of the tragedy.

Unsure of Insuring?

Insurance policies for General Aviation (GA) owners and operators is relatively affordable, based on the type of aircraft owned, and how often it is flown. Should the Federal Government impose minimum liability coverage requirements, or should it be state-regulated?

If you have been injured, the attorneys at Kimmel, Carter, Roman, Peltz & O’Neill are your Delaware injury lawyers and here to help.



bottom of page