Vanessa Bryant filed a federal lawsuit against the county claiming invasion of privacy. She claimed that she experienced "severe emotion distress" after losing her husband and daughter Gianna, 13 years, in court papers.
Kobe Bryant and others were killed in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Jan 26, 2020. The helicopter was carrying them to a girls basketball tournament. The crash was attributed to pilot error by federal safety officials.
Vanessa Bryant claims that first responders including firefighters and sheriff’s deputies shared photographs of Kobe Bryant’s body with a bartender, and then passed on "gratuitous pictures of the deceased children, parents, and coaches". The Los Angeles Times reported first that an internal investigation by the sheriff's office found deputies sharing photos of victims' bodies.
According to the suit, none of the first responders was directly involved in the investigation or had any legitimate purpose of taking or passing on the grisly photos. Governor Gavin Newsom approved legislation last year prompted by the helicopter accident that makes it illegal for first responders at crime or accident scenes to take unauthorised photos of dead people.
"Ms. Bryant is ill from the thought that strangers will be looking at pictures of her dead husband and child. She lives in fear that her children or she might face horrendous images online." Court documents state.
Los Angeles County attorneys want Bryant and the family of those who died in the crash to be subject to psychiatric evaluations. The lawyers suggest that the evaluations should be audio- or video-recorded, and last between four and six hours for adults and eight to six hours for children.
According to the county, while the families have undoubtedly experienced severe distress and trauma due to the crash and the resulting loss of loved ones, the distress they suffered was not caused (by) the first responders or any accident site photographs that were never made public."
LA County lawyers wrote in court papers, that such psychiatric exams are necessary to assess the extent and nature of the families' alleged injuries.
In filings filed Friday, Vanessa Bryant's lawyers stated that the county uses "scorched earth discovery tactics" to bully her, and other victims' families into abandoning their pursuit for accountability.
In a Monday statement to The Associated Press on Monday, attorneys for Los Angeles County said that they have "great sympathy" for Bryant’s loss.
They stated in the statement that it was "horrible, the worst imaginable." "But she sued County for something that never happened. The photos of the crash site have not been made public. We see this case as a money grab, and we are doing everything necessary to defend our client."
Bryant's attorneys declined to comment immediately on Monday afternoon.