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L.A. County Wants Vanessa Bryant to Undergo Mental Health Exam in Photos Suit
By City News Service
Published October 18, 2021

Vanessa Bryant (John Salangsang/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

Attorneys for Los Angeles County are asking a federal judge to order the widow of NBA legend Kobe Bryant to undergo a psychiatric exam before trial in her invasion of privacy lawsuit alleging that sheriff’s deputies shared unauthorized photos taken at the site of the
helicopter crash that killed the athlete, his daughter and seven others, according to court papers obtained today.

Read Related: Kobe Bryant’s Legacy Lives Forever

County lawyers argue in motions filed Friday that mental health evaluations are required to determine whether emotional distress suffered by Bryant and others was the result of the photo leaks or the crash itself. Bryant is suing the county and its sheriff’s and fire departments, along with four deputies alleged to have shared images taken on personal cell phones at the January 2020 crash site.

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Read Related: Vanessa Bryant Calls Foul on Venue Change Motion in Kobe Bryant Trial

The county alleges in its motion that plaintiffs “cannot be suffering distress from accident site photos that they have never seen and that were never publicly disseminated.” Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, could not immediately be reached for comment. The motion to compel psychiatric exams is set to be discussed Nov. 5 in Los Angeles federal court. Trial is expected sometime next year. According to court papers, 66 county employees have “relevant knowledge, and documents have revealed that at least 18 agents or employees of the Sheriff’s Department and Fire Department took, shared, or possessed improper photos of the accident scene where Mrs. Bryant’s loved ones tragically perished.”
Read Related: Vanessa Bryant Sends Emotional B-Day Message to Daughter Gigi

The lawsuit alleges that county officials used personal cell phones “to take and share gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents and coaches.” According to the suit, Sheriff Alex Villanueva initially assured Bryant of privacy when she expressed concerns just after the crash occurred.

The suit, seeking damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and emotional distress, claims that a deputy at the scene took between 25 and 100 photos that had “no conceivable investigatory purpose and were focused directly on the victims’ remains,” and showed the accident site images to other government personnel and to a friend who is a bartender in Norwalk.

The county responded last year to Bryant’s suit, arguing that her claims will not stand. “This straightforward case, with undisputed facts, has turned into a fishing expedition that is taking first responders away from their job — and subject them to public harassment and threats,” county lawyers wrote in their papers. “Defendants are eager to have their day in court and put an end to this.”

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