Los Angeles County is demanding that Vanessa Bryant and others undergo psychiatric evaluations in order to prove emotional distress over leaked photos of the scene where Bryant’s husband, Kobe Bryant, their daughter and seven others died in a helicopter crash.
The victims’ family members say sheriff’s deputies violated their civil rights and privacy, and inflicted emotional distress, by taking and sharing photos of the January 2020 crash. The photos were not shared publicly, and authorities have said the photos have since been deleted.
Los Angeles County argued Friday in a California Superior Court filing that Bryant and the family of the other crash victims need to complete a medical examination.
“Plaintiffs cannot claim that they are suffering from ongoing depression, anxiety and severe emotional distress and then balk at having to support their claims,” attorneys representing the county, its fire department, and several local deputies stated in the court filing.
The defense further washed its hands of responsibility for the families’ emotional distress, stating that “while Plaintiffs have undoubtedly suffered severe distress and trauma from the crash and resulting loss of their loved ones, their distress was not caused by Defendants or any accident site photos that were never publicly disseminated.”
Attorneys for the victims’ families fired back by accusing the county of resorting to “eleventh-hour intimidation” and bullying tactics.
“The requested mental examinations are unwarranted because Plaintiffs are claiming emotional distress that any reasonable person victimized by Defendants’ misconduct would experience,” they argued in court papers.
Bryant, the lead plaintiff in the case, is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. Her husband, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers, and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were among those who died in the helicopter crash.
The next court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 5, and the trial is scheduled for February.