Vanessa Bryant remains embroiled in a legal battle with Los Angeles County more than a year after the death of her husband, Kobe, and daughter, Gianna.
Bryant filed a lawsuit in September 2020, eight months after Kobe, Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, Calif. She is alleging that she and her family have suffered emotional distress because Los Angeles County police and fire department employees took and shared gruesome photos at the crash site.
Here is what we know so far about Bryant’s lawsuit, including how she responded to questions during her recent deposition.
What to know about Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit
Bryant is seeking damages for “negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress” after first responders allegedly took and shared photos of human remains at the crash site.
“Emotional distress means that not only do I have to grieve to the loss of my husband and child, but for the rest of my life I’m going to have to fear that these photographs of my husband and child will be leaked,” Bryant said as part of her Oct. 12 deposition ( via The New York Times ). “And I do not want my little girls or I to ever have to see their remains in that matter. Nor do I think it’s right that the photographs were taken in the first place because it’s already tough enough that I have to experience this heartache and this loss.
“But now to live the rest of my life having to fear those photographs surfacing is something that I, I have to deal with every single day.”
Lawyers for the county have argued that Bryant can’t be suffering from emotional distress because she hasn’t seen the photos and they weren’t shared publicly. They have pushed for independent medical examinations of Bryant and others in order to determine whether the distress was caused by county employees sharing photos or the crash itself and the deaths of Kobe and Gianna.
Bryant’s lawyers responded by calling the examinations “cruel,” per The New York Times .
“When public servants violate the privacy and constitutional rights of the citizens they swore to protect and serve, the victims must run a gauntlet to seek justice,” Bryant’s lawyers said.
Vanessa Bryant’s deposition
In her deposition , Bryant recounted the events of Jan. 26, 2020, the day of the helicopter crash. She also explained why she filed the lawsuit against Los Angeles County.
— On how she found out about the crash: “[A family assistant] told me that there was an accident and that there were five survivors. And I asked her if Gianna and Kobe were okay. And she said she wasn’t sure. She didn’t know. … I tried calling my husband. … I tried getting hold of my mom. As soon as I was on the phone with my mom, I was holding onto my phone, because obviously I was trying to call my husband back, and all these notifications started popping up on my phone, saying RIP Kobe. RIP Kobe. RIP Kobe.”
— On her conversation with Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who confirmed the deaths of Kobe and Gianna: “Sheriff Villanueva tells me what happened. And he says, ‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ And I said: ‘If you can’t bring my husband and baby back, please make sure no one takes photographs of them. Please secure the area.’ And he said: ‘I will.’ I said: ‘No, I need you to get on the phone right now and I need you to make sure that you secure the area.’ So he excused himself. He came back and he said: ‘All is good. The area is secure. There’s an umbrella over the area.'”
— On recovering items from the crash site: “I have my husband’s and my daughter’s clothing in my possession. And I can say that they — they suffered a lot. And if their clothes represent the condition of their bodies, I cannot imagine how someone could be so callous and have no regard for them or our friends, and just share the images as if they were animals on a street. We’re not talking about — I really don’t want to get into details. I can only say that their clothing represents a lot. … I had to recover all their items because I know people are sick and would like to take pictures of them and share them. So I wanted to make sure that I recovered everything that I possibly could.”
— On what she is seeking with this lawsuit: “I want accountability. … I don’t want this to ever happen to anybody else. I don’t think it’s right. … I don’t think it’s right that I have to deal with this; that my kids have to deal with this when they get older and they become aware of what happened; that our friends have to deal with this. I don’t think it’s fair that I’m here today having to fight for accountability. Because no one should ever have to endure this type of pain and fear of their family members. The pictures getting released, this is not okay. … I just don’t understand how someone can have no regard for life and compassion, and, instead, choose to take that opportunity to photograph lifeless and helpless individuals for their own sick amusement.”
Vanessa Bryant wins ruling in lawsuit; Los Angeles County officials will testify
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick ruled that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby will be forced to answer questions in a pretrial deposition, according to USA Today . Eick stated that Villanueva and Osby possess “unique firsthand, non-repetitive knowledge relevant to the issues in this case” that is “not entirely obtainable” through other sources.
“While we disagree with the court’s decision, we will make both the Sheriff and Fire Chief available for deposition,” said Skip Miller, partner of the Miller Barondess law firm in Los Angeles, in a statement to USA Today. “Their testimony will not change the fact that there is no evidence any photos taken by County first responders have ever been publicly disseminated.”
The length of the deposition will be limited to four hours so as not to divert Villanueva and Osby from their professional duties.
When will a trial take place?
The case is expected to go to trial in February 2022. Bryant is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
When asked during the deposition if she is seeking money in this lawsuit, Bryant responded, “That would be up to the jury. I don’t — I’m not asking for a dollar amount.”