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Los Angeles County is trying to make Vanessa Bryant and others who lost family members in the fatal helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others to take a psychiatric exam, according to USA Today.
Bryant and other surviving family plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit against the county for invasion of privacy and negligence after several county employees allegedly shared graphic and horrific photos from the crash site in January 2020.
Los Angeles County has argued that the “emotional distress” that Vanessa and the others are in was due to the crash itself, and not the release or sharing of any photos.
“Despite putting their mental condition front and center in this case, Plaintiffs refuse to submit to independent medical examinations (IMEs),” the county said in a court filing, via USA Today. “The County brings this motion to compel IMEs of the Plaintiffs, which are necessary to evaluate the existence, extent and nature of Plaintiffs’ alleged emotional injuries. Plaintiffs cannot claim that they are suffering from ongoing depression, anxiety and severe emotional distress and then balk at having to support their claims.”
Bryant hits back against LA County’s ‘scorched-earth’ tactics
Bryant filed a lawsuit last year against the county, accusing four Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies of sharing photos of Bryant and the eight others who were killed in the helicopter crash.
Bryant named the four deputies on Instagram, and described the disturbing allegations of what she said those officers did with the photos.
One officer allegedly showed photos from the crash site and “boasted” about them to a bartender two days after the crash. That bartender then allegedly told another table of guests what had happened — one of which then filed a complaint immediately with the sheriff’s department and called the incident “very, very disturbing.” That same officer also allegedly showed the photos to his niece, another bar patron and even reportedly made “a crude remark” about the victims’ remains.
Another deputy allegedly sent photos from the crash to a friend he plays video games with.
Bryant said that photos were spread to at least 10 members of the department within 48 hours, and that one deputy took up to 100 photos on his personal phone. She also said that Sheriff Alex Villanueva allegedly told his deputies that they wouldn’t face discipline if they deleted the photos, and didn’t tell internal affairs about it until after the news was made public.
Bryant’s attorneys slammed the county for trying to force her and others — including “four teenagers, a 10-year-old child and a 5-year-old kindergartner” — to submit to involuntary psychiatric exams.
“Unable to defend the indefensible conduct of its employees who took and shared horrific photographs of Plaintiffs’ deceased loved ones. … the County has resorted to scorched-earth discovery tactics designed to bully Plaintiffs into abandoning their pursuit of accountability,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys stated, via USA Today. “After seeking intrusive discovery into everything from Plaintiffs’ privileged therapist records and middle school report cards, the County now seeks to compel the victims of its employees’ misconduct … to undergo involuntary psychiatric examinations.”
Los Angeles County is also trying to block the depositions of Villanueva and 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, via USA Today. “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.”