Vanessa Bryant must provide therapy records in lawsuit over fatal crash photos, judge rules

ByStella Chan and Theresa Waldrop, CNN, CNNWire
Tuesday, November 16, 2021
LA judge rules Vanessa Bryant must turn over therapy records
A judge has ruled that Kobe Bryant's widow must turn over her therapy records to Los Angeles County in her lawsuit claiming she suffered emotional distress after first responders shared photos from the site of the 2020 helicopter crash.

Vanessa Bryant must turn over mental health records in her lawsuit regarding leaked photos of the helicopter crash that killed her husband, basketball legend Kobe Bryant, and others, a judge has ruled.

Bryant's lawsuit against Los Angeles County claims photos of the January 2020 crash site were shared by county fire and sheriff's department employees in settings not relevant to the investigation, including in a bar.

Bryant "has suffered (and continues to suffer) severe emotional distress" because of the leaks, the lawsuit alleges.

Magistrate Judge Charles F. Eick ruled Bryant and her therapist must produce documents as far back as 2017 to the lawyers for the county by November 29.

"We are gratified that the Court has granted our motion for access to her medical records, as it is a standard request in lawsuits where a plaintiff demands millions of dollars for claims of emotional distress," Skip Miller, partner of the Miller Barondess law firm and outside counsel for L.A. County, said in a statement to CNN.

The request for therapy records is an invasion of privacy, Bryant's lawyers said in papers filed last week.

CNN is seeking comment from Bryant's attorneys.

RELATED: Judge orders LA County sheriff, fire chief to be deposed in Kobe Bryant crash lawsuit

The judge earlier this month ruled that Bryant did not have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. The county had argued that the examinations were necessary to determine whether Bryant suffered emotional distress because of the photo leak and not just because of the crash itself.

A previous ruling does not prevent the defendant from "obtaining relevant, nonprivileged, proportional discovery concerning the causation, and the severity, of (Plaintiff's) alleged emotional distress, including appropriate discovery into any asserted overlap or relationship between Plaintiff's emotional distress resulting from the helicopter crash and Plaintiff's emotional distress allegedly resulting from the subsequent photographs," according to the court document filed this week.

"The County continues to have nothing but the deepest sympathy for the enormous grief Ms. Bryant suffered as a result of the tragic helicopter accident," Miller said.

Bryant alleges the photos shared by county employees violated her constitutional right to control death images of her husband and daughter Gianna. She is seeking an undisclosed amount for emotional distress and anxiety over the photos possibly having gone public.

Her husband, daughter, and seven others died January 26, 2020, when their helicopter crashed into a Calabasas, California, hillside.

The trial is scheduled for February.