The county of Los Angeles is trying to force the widow of Kobe Bryant and other surviving family members of a fatal helicopter crash last year to submit to psychiatric examinations that could help the county prove a critical point in their legal dispute: Did Vanessa Bryant and the others suffer emotional distress because photos of their dead relatives were shared by county fire and sheriff’s department employees after the crash? Or did their emotional distress stem only from the tragic crash itself?
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The county contends it’s the latter and is seeking a court order to compel these medical examinations as part its effort to defend itself from a lawsuit filed by Bryant last year after the NBA legend and their daughter died in that crash with seven others. Vanessa Bryant is suing the county for invasion of privacy and negligence, claiming county employees improperly shared photos of human remains from the crash site. In a court filing Friday, the county noted that Bryant and other surviving family plaintiffs are suing the county for “tens of millions of dollars based solely on their claimed ‘severe emotional distress.’ ” The county’s position is that their distress was not caused by county employees or any accident site photos it says “were never publicly disseminated.”
The county said the photos were not posted on the internet and said the basis for Bryant’s claims is that county employees “showed accident site photos to other government personnel and to a bartender” after the crash. It also is fighting an attempt by Bryant to take the depositions of L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva and County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby. “Adding insult to injury, the County is making this demand while simultaneously refusing to make two of its key witnesses … available for a routine deposition,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys stated. “Apparently, in the County’s estimation, top officials should be shielded from providing any testimony, but the victims should not only withstand the emotional toll of a full-day deposition, but also submit to an eight-hour involuntary psychiatric examination simply because they had the audacity to demand accountability for Defendants’ disrespect of the dead and callous intrusion upon their private grief.”
To defend itself from a lawsuit filed by the widow of Kobe Bryant, the county of Los Angeles is trying to find out how much money she and other plaintiffs agreed to accept in exchange for dropping a separate lawsuit against a helicopter company in June, according to documents filed recently in federal court.
The county says such information could help show whether Vanessa Bryant and other plaintiffs are effectively double-dipping by attempting to recover damages for the “same harm” of emotional distress in two separate lawsuits stemming from the helicopter crash that killed the NBA legend in January 2020.
Vanessa Bryant is suing Los Angeles County, the sheriff’s department and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva over alleged photos sheriff’s deputies took of the crash site where Kobe and 13-year-old Gianna Bryant died along with seven others following a helicopter accident near Calabasas, California, on Jan. 26.
The lawsuit, filed last Thursday in the Superior Court of California and obtained by USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, cites emotional distress, negligence and invasion of privacy. It alleges at least eight sheriff’s deputies took photos on their personal cell phones of the crash. Additionally, a deputy trainee shared the photo with a member of the public days after the crash, according to a bartender who witnessed the interaction and then filed a written complaint to the department.
“At the moment the deputies snapped photos of Kobe and Gianna’s remains, they created a harm that cannot be undone, and the Department’s response has only exacerbated that harm,” the lawsuit says. Messages from USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday afternoon to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were not immediately returned.
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October 27, 2021 | 2:40 am EDT Update
When asked specifically if this is one of those games where Simmons’ absence is felt, Rivers quickly dismissed that thought. “I don’t worry about that,” he quickly said. “Ben’s not here, so yeah. If we would’ve won the game, so, no. I don’t do that.”