LA County files to dismiss lawsuit brought by Vanessa Bryant

The county previously requested that Kobe Bryant's widow be subjected to psychiatric testing

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Los Angeles County wants Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit over the Kobe Bryant crash site photos tossed. On Monday, attorneys for LA County filed a motion seeking a summary judgment to dismiss the lawsuit, as reported by The Hill

Vanessa filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County in the wake of the untimely deaths of her husband and daughter last year. She accuses the county’s sheriff’s department of causing emotional distress after photos were shared of the helicopter crash which left nine people dead, theGrio previously reported

The lawsuit contends first responders, including firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, shared photographs of Kobe’s body with a bartender and passed around “gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents and coaches.”

In the newly filed motion, attorneys for Los Angeles County wrote it was “undisputed that the complained-of photos have never been in the media, on the Internet, or otherwise publicly disseminated.”

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Kobe Bryant and wife Vanessa Bryant (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“As for the ‘resulting injury,’ the alleged harm is Plaintiff’s fear that photos might one day be publicly disseminated, possibly by County employees. Harm cannot be based on speculation and inferences,” the attorneys added.

“Plaintiff’s injury will arise if a photo is one day published, if it contains her family members and if it is traced back to one of the Deputy Defendants. Until then, non-existent speculative injury is not a basis for a negligence claim.”

Los Angeles County believes the helicopter crash caused emotional stress, rather than the graphic images taken at the site. 

The county previously requested that Vanessa be subjected to psychiatric testing, Deadline reported. In the Oct. 15 court filing, the county said it wants to determine whether the photos, which were leaked by county fire and sheriff’s department employees, or the accident itself caused distress for Bryant and her family.

Kobe and seven others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, were killed on Jan. 26, 2020, when the helicopter they were aboard crashed in the hills west of Los Angeles amid foggy weather while on the way to a girls basketball tournament. Federal safety officials blamed pilot error for the wreck.

Vanessa said she learned about their deaths on social media — hours before she received official confirmation from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.

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A mural depicting Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna by artist Mr Brainwash is seen in Los Angeles. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick recently ruled that LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and County Fire Chief Daryl Osby must give pre-trial testimony about the photos that first responders took at the crash site.

As part of the legal battle, Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick has ordered Vanessa to submit her private therapy records as far back as 2017 to the lawyers for the county by Nov. 29. 

“We are gratified that the Court has granted our motion for access to her medical records, as it is a standard request in lawsuits where a plaintiff demands millions of dollars for claims of emotional distress,” Skip Miller, an outside counsel for L.A. County, said in a statement to CNN.

The judge previously ruled that Vanessa did not have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The county argued it was necessary to determine whether Kobe’s widow truly suffered emotional distress over the helicopter crash site photos. 

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Kobe Bryant (Getty Images)

Former Los Angeles prosecutor Alfonso Estrada commented on the case to USA Today. Estrada is not involved with the lawsuit but noted that if a judge grants summary judgment, Bryant “would essentially be out of luck, absent an appeal to the Ninth Circuit,” he said. 

“On the flip side, if she survives summary judgment, then the price tag goes way up for the county as far as any potential resolution or settlement,” Estrada added.

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