Vanessa Bryant should have psychiatric exam to support her lawsuit over deadly helicopter crash: L.A. County
Kobe Bryant's widow claims anxiety, depression from invasion of privacy resulting from leaked photos
Kobe Bryant’s widow has been asked to undergo a psychiatric exam by Los Angeles County officials keen to evaluate the extent of her alleged emotional injuries from her husband’s helicopter crash.
She is suing the County of Los Angeles, saying her family’s privacy was violated after county sheriff’s deputies shared photos from the crash site where her husband, one of their four daughters, 13-year-old Gianna, and seven others died in January 2020. She contends the leak was an intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In documents filed Friday in California Superior Court, attorneys representing the County requested the evaluation so they can gauge the extent of her reported emotional distress regarding helicopter crash images, which were shared with the media. The County called the medical exam “crucial” for the defence — and for a fair trial.
“The County brings this motion to compel (independent medical examinations) of the Plaintiffs,” newly filed documents state, “which are necessary to evaluate the existence, extent and nature of Plaintiffs’ alleged emotional injuries. Plaintiffs cannot claim that they are suffering from ongoing depression, anxiety and severe emotional distress and then balk at having to support their claims.”
The filing is the latest development in the legal battle between Bryant and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department that began after at least eight sheriff’s deputies took unauthorized photos of the crash scene, which were widely circulated among law enforcement, deputies’ friends and family members, and some strangers.
Plaintiffs cannot claim they are suffering severe emotional distress and then balk at having to support their claimsL.A. County filing
The NBA star was aboard a helicopter, when it flew through cloudy conditions and crashed into a hillside near Calabasas, Calif. Several sheriff’s deputies who arrived at the scene “pulled out their cellphones and snapped photos of the dead children, parents and coaches,” according to Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit filed in September 2020.
Bryant’s lawsuit asks for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Her lawyers blasted the defence team’s request for a medical evaluation, saying “Unable to defend the indefensible conduct of its employees who took and shared horrific photographs of Plaintiffs’ deceased loved ones… the County has resorted to scorched-earth discovery tactics designed to bully Plaintiffs into abandoning their pursuit of accountability.”
Bryant’s legal team said the county’s request would be an “eight-hour involuntary psychiatric examination” forced not just on the adult plaintiffs, but also the juvenile plaintiffs — identified in court filings only by their initials — who range from five years of age to teenagers.
An attorney for Bryant declined to discuss the case on the record. An attorney representing Los Angeles County did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Days after the crash, a bartender in Norwalk, Calif., filed a complaint with the sheriff’s department after overhearing a Los Angeles County sheriff’s trainee “bragging about how much he had seen at the crash site,” as he allegedly tried to use the crash photos to impress a woman at the bar.
After the Los Angeles Times reported the photo leak, the sheriff’s department acknowledged that only the coroner and the National Transportation Safety Board workers investigating the crash should have taken crash-site images.
After an internal investigation, the Los Angeles County Fire Department moved to fire two employees and suspend a third after it found that the employees took crash-site photos and shared them with their significant others, according to court filings and media reports. It was not clear whether they had been fired. Bryant’s lawsuit does not name the fire department as a co-defendant.
The judge is to rule on the matter in November and it is scheduled to go to trial in February. It is at least the fourth legal action to arise from the crash.
Bryant settled a wrongful-death suit with the helicopter operator and a claim from her mother, Sofia Urbieta Laine, who said she was not paid for years of work as a nanny and assistant to her daughter’s family, despite assurances from Kobe Bryant that she would be supported financially. A Los Angeles County fire captain filed a lawsuit saying the county retaliated against him by demoting him after the crash.
— with files from Washington Post and WENN