On Wednesday (January 5), a federal judge ruled in favor of Vanessa Bryant, widow of late NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. Her lawsuit could move forward for a jury trial next month.
Bryant is suing the County for invasion of privacy and negligence after photos of human remains were shared between sheriff and fire department employees from the helicopter crash site where Bryant’s basketball star husband, their 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others died in January 2020.
Los Angeles County requested the lawsuit be thrown out of court, but U.S. District Judge John F. Walter said that “there are genuine issues of material fact for trial.” He did not explain what those issues were but added that it wasn’t up to him “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
According to documents filed by Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, “close-up photos of Gianna and Kobe’s remains were passed around on at least 28 [Los Angeles Sheriff Department] devices and by at least a dozen firefighters.”
Li added in a statement: “This has always been about accountability. We look forward to presenting the facts to a jury.”
The County said Bryant’s lawsuit was without merit because she never saw the photos in question. The images were not shared with non-County employees, except for one time when a deputy showed them to a bartender two days after the crash.
In October 2021, Bryant’s request to obtain a pretrial deposition testimony from L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and County Fire Chief Daryl Osby was granted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick because of their “unique firsthand, non-repetitive knowledge relevant to the issues in this case.” The following month, the County earned a small victory when Eick ruled that if Bryant wanted her lawsuit to continue, she would have to submit her mental health records to the court.
The trial date is scheduled for February 22, 2022, in Los Angeles.