Kobe Bryant‘s widow has been about as open as possible about the devastation she has experienced by losing her husband and daughter to the horrific helicopter crash that claimed their lives and five others on board last year in California. From penning poignant social media posts detailing her pain to sharing her grief with the world at a live televised memorial viewed by millions of people around the world, Vanessa Bryant has gone above and beyond the call of duty for someone whose loved ones were killed in such a stunning fashion.
However, Los Angeles County is requesting even more proof of her pain, suffering and “severe emotional distress” by trying to force Vanessa Bryant to justify her lawsuit stemming from sheriff’s deputies taking and sharing heartless photos of the helicopter crash site where Kobe, 13-year-old Gianna Bryant and the other passengers died their horrible deaths.
Los Angeles County filed a motion on Friday asking Vanessa Bryant to take a psychiatric exam so that a doctor can verify if she did indeed suffer “ongoing, severe emotional distress, anxiety and depression.”
Yes, that’s right, Los Angeles County — the target of a lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant that is seeking unspecified damages — is casting doubt over whether a woman whose husband’s and daughter’s deaths were exploited by their employees in such an insensitive manner had an adverse mental reaction to what was likely the biggest shock of her life.
Los Angeles County’s motion cited a legal precedent for the request for an independent medical examination (IME) and accused Vanessa Bryant and her lawyers of “stalling and evading” complying with the request.
“The United States Supreme Court has held that a plaintiff who alleges mental injury places his or her mental condition in controversy and provides a defendant with good cause for an IME to determine the existence and extent of that injury,” the motion said in part before adding: “Plaintiffs are not entitled to a onesided recitation of their injuries at trial. IMEs are not only warranted, they are critical to a fair trial.”
Los Angeles County also demanded that Vanessa Bryant “pay the County’s fees and costs incurred in filing this motion.”
Vanessa Bryant’s lawyers responded to the motion with facts only.
“Unable to defend the indefensible conduct of its employees who took and shared horrific photographs of Plaintiffs’ deceased loved ones, and with just a few weeks remaining before fact discovery closes, the County has resorted to scorched earth discovery tactics designed to bully Plaintiffs into abandoning their pursuit of accountability,” they wrote.
They said Los Angeles County had previously requested everything from Vanessa Bryant’s “privileged therapist records and middle school report cards” in an effort “to compel the victims of its employees’ misconduct—including four teenagers, a 10-year-old child, and a 5-year-old kindergartener—to undergo involuntary psychiatric examinations.”
The response alleged that Los Angeles County filed this new motion while it was “simultaneously refusing to make two of its key witnesses (Sheriff Villanueva and Fire Chief Osby) available for a routine deposition.”
That led to Vanessa Bryant’s lawyers’ mic dop moment:
“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,” they wrote.
To be sure, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department engaged in a massive coverup and scandal when deputies took and shared graphic photos from the helicopter crash in January 2020. IN March of that year, the Los Angeles Times reported that “for nearly five weeks, the leadership of the Sheriff’s Department tried to keep a lid on the episode instead of following the normal investigative protocols — even after determining that several more deputies had obtained photos.”
The only reason why Vanessa Bryant and the public know about the deputies’ photos of the crash scene and its victims was because a person at a local bar saw a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputy “showing gruesome photos taken at the scene of the tragedy,” the L.A. Times reported.
“He was working the day the helicopter went down and took pictures of the crash site and bodies,” the person who observed the deputy wrote in a complaint on the Sheriff’s Department’s website that notified the Sheriff’s Information Bureau, which is how the L.A. Times found out about it and broke the story.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva reportedly ordered the deputies involved to delete the images from their phones, but the L.A. Times reported that doing so could be considered as destroying evidence in a case that is being investigated independently of the police department.
Back then, Vanessa Bryant posted a statement to her Instagram account demanding that the deputies involved face the “harshest possible discipline.”
“Villanueva said no department policy specifically addresses deputies photographing such crash scenes on their personal cellphones, and that he plans to change that,” the L.A. Times reported, citing local news outlet KNBC. “However, according to the Sheriff’s Department’s Manual of Policies and Procedures, members shall not use a personal cellphone ‘to record, store, document, catalog, transmit, and/or forward any image, document, scene, or environment captured as a result of their employment and/or while performing official Department business that is not available or accessible to the general public.’”
Vanessa Bryant previously filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Fillmore-based Island Express Holding Corp. and Island Express Helicopters. The suit alleges that pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the Jan. 26 helicopter crash in Calabasas, failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” and was negligent.
“Defendant Island Express Helicopters authorized, directed and/or permitted a flight with full knowledge that the subject helicopter was flying into unsafe weather conditions,” The lawsuit alleged. The complaint also argued that Kobe Bryant died “as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan” for which “the company is vicariously liable in all respects.”
The complaint filed by Vanessa Bryant is 27 pages long and also lists Zobayan’s estate as a defendant and it seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
The suit also says that the company didn’t enact “adequate training and/or supervision” after the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) citation “to ensure the negligent action did not re-occur” and claims it “promoted and engaged in unnecessary and needlessly risky means of transport under the circumstances.”
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