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Vanessa Bryant Battles L.A. County as Other Families of Crash Victims are Granted Settlements
By Amanda Scurlock, Sports Writer
Published November 4, 2021

The late, great L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant is joined by the Los Angeles City Council and his family August 24, 2016, to celebrate Kobe Bryant Day in the city.
(Photo by Valerie Goodloe/L.A. Sentinel)

Vanessa Bryant, widow of the late great Los Angeles Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant, will not have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation for her lawsuit against Los Angeles County. In September 2020, Bryant filed a lawsuit against L.A. County claiming that photos were leaked of the site of the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of Kobe and their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, along with seven other victims.

The lawsuit claimed that county fire and sheriff department employees shared photos of the tragic site in places that were irrelevant to the investigation, including a bar. The claims seek damages for negligence, civil rights violations, emotional distress, and violation of privacy.

The leak led to TMZ breaking the news, causing countless fans to go to the site. Eight deputies took photos of the crash victims on their cell phones for their own personal gratification, according to the lawsuit.

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L.A. County attempted to have Vanessa go through a medical examination to ensure whether the emotional distress was due to the photos or to the crash itself.

Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick denied the request made by L.A. County on the grounds that a medical evaluation would be “untimely.”

Vanessa Bryant delivers a speech during Kobe and Gianna Bryants’ Celebration of Life at STAPLES Center on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. (Valier Goodloe/L.A. Sentinel)

“The fact remains that no crash site photos taken by first responders have ever been publicly disseminated, as Ms. Bryant confirmed in her deposition,” said Skip Miller, the outside counsel for L.A. County. “We totally sympathize with the enormous loss she has suffered. But as a legal matter, we don’t believe she could be harmed by something that didn’t occur.”

Judge Eick also allowed Vanessa’s request to have L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and County Fire Chief Daryl Osby to give a pre-trial testimony about the photos that their employees took at the crash site.

As Vanessa battles with her lawsuit, L.A. County agreed to pay $2.5 million to the Altobelli and Mauser families after the Board of Supervisors approved a settlement for similar lawsuits filed by the two families.

Through the settlement, Matthew Mauser, who lost his wife in the crash, will earn $1.25 million. Siblings J.J. and Alexis Altobelli will earn $1.25 million for the loss of their 14-year-old sister, mother, and father.

In late October, Vanessa did a virtual deposition with a lawyer who is representing L.A. County. She revealed that a family assistant informed her about the crash at 11:30 a.m. and she initially believed that Kobe and Gianna survived. When she tried to call Kobe, notifications on her phone revealed that he and their daughter had perished.

In this Nov. 21, 2017, file photo, from left, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, wife Vanessa and daughter Natalia Diamante Bryant are seen before an NCAA college women’s basketball game between Connecticut and UCLA, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

Lakers general manager, Rob Pelinka, and Vanessa traveled to the Malibu sheriff’s station where Villanueva confirmed the deaths of Kobe and Gianna. She urged him to secure the crash site from photos.

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Vanessa learned about the leaked images through an article in the Los Angeles Times; she contacted the department for more information on how they secured all the photos. A month later, an attorney for the Sheriff’s Department told her they had no legal obligation to respond to her questions.

The lawsuit claimed that deputies shared graphic photos of the site on Instagram and one deputy had up to 100 photos on his phone.

The trial is set to begin in February 2022.

 

Categories: Basketball | History (Sports) | Legends | Local | News (Entertainment) | News (Sports)
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