Los Angeles County is asking Vanessa Bryant and other family members to submit psychiatric exams to prove that photos of the fatal helicopter crash leaked by first responders was, in fact, emotionally distressful
Wow. Where to even start with this level of abhorrence? On January 26, 2020, the world mourned the loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna “Gigi,” and seven others who perished in the tragic Calabasas helicopter crash. The accident was investigated by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and as many as eight responders, including four deputies from LASD and several firefighters from LAFD, took and shared photos of the tragic crash on personal devices.
Vanessa Bryant sued the department in Sept. 2020 for the emotional distress caused by this callous act, citing “negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Now, in order to “prove” that this act was, in fact, awful and emotionally distressful, Los Angeles County is aiming to have Bryant undergo psychiatric evaluation, a clear attempt to thwart the lawsuit in what Bryant’s lawyer are calling a “scorched-earth” tactic.
The county argues that the emotion distress suffered by Bryant and others was a result of the crash, not the subsequent events involving the photos and dissemination of them throughout the law enforcement organization — as if somehow, the latter didn’t exacerbate the family’s trauma. In March 2021, Bryant shared the names of four of the deputies who took and shared photos — Deputies Joey Cruz, Rafael Mejia, Michael Russell, and Raul Versales. It is unclear whether or not these deputies have faced any consequences or are still employed by LASD, an organization notorious for internal gang activity. The Los Angeles Fire Department was planning to fire two of their employees allegedly involved, although it is unclear whether or not the department followed through with these intentions.
The county counters that if Bryant and her family truly have undergone psychiatric stress because of these photos, then they should feel fine undergoing an evaluation — which is weird, considering the deputies have been completely shielded from consequence
“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,” the plaintiff’s attorney stated.
“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,” Bryant’s lawyers stated. “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.”
“Despite putting their mental condition front and center in this case, Plaintiffs refuse to submit to independent medical examinations (IMEs),” the county said. “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.”
A hearing is set for November 5, 2021.