Vanessa Bryant will have to hand over her medical records to Los Angeles County officials after she cited ’emotional distress’ she incurred after the sheriff’s office allegedly posted pictures of her dead husband and daughter.
She had said the knowledge that photos showing the death of her husband Kobe Bryant and their daughter, Gianna, were ‘out there’ caused her ‘constant fear and anxiety,’ and she was having trouble sleeping and was depressed as a result.
Defense attorneys representing the county then requested her medical records, saying they wanted to determine whether her trauma was caused by the alleged release of the photos or from the fatal crash itself.
But Bryant had sought to block the county from getting access to her medical records, citing doctor-patient confidentiality as it relates to her visit with a psychotherapist, TMZ reports.
Federal Magistrate Judge Charles Eick, though, ruled on Monday: ‘The requests are plainly relevant to the claims and defenses herein.’
He noted that the county was ‘neither being abusive nor harassing’ in its request for the records.
Bryant now has until November 29 to turn over all of her medical records dating back to January 2017.
Vanessa Bryant, the widow of famed basketball star Kobe Bryant, will have to turn over all of her medical records as it relates to a visit with a psychotherapist by November 29, a federal magistrate judge ruled on Monday
Vanessa, second from left, was the wife of Kobe Bryant and the mother of Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, second from right, who died in a fatal helicopter crash last year
Bryant is suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for invasion of privacy, alleging that first responders improperly shared photos of human remains from a helicopter crash last year that killed her husband, Kobe Bryant, and their daughter, Gianna.
She revealed in a sworn statement last month how she learned of the helicopter crash on January 26, 2020, saying that she first learned of the crash, which occurred around 9.45am, when her assistant knocked on the door about 11.30am and told her there had been a crash.
She said she tried in vain to reach her husband, who was on the helicopter with Gianna and other youth basketball players and coaches as she started getting notifications on her phone, sharing condolences for Kobe’s death.
It was hours later before Vanessa officially learned from the sheriff that Kobe, 41, and Gianna, 13, had perished in the crash.
Bryant also claimed in her deposition that LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva vowed to keep the crash scene private moments after informing her that Kobe and Gianna were dead.
But soon, she claims, first responders, including firefighters and sheriff´s deputies, shared photographs of Kobe Bryant’s body with a bartender and passed around ‘gratuitous photos of the dead children, parents and coaches.
One person, showed a photo on his phone to a bartender at Baja California Bar and Grill, who then loudly proclaimed to patrons and staff that he’d just seen an image of Kobe Bryant’s body.
Bryant contends in the suit that she has experienced ‘severe emotional distress’ from the display of the photos, that has compounded the trauma of losing her husband and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
Los Angeles County contends that, while the conduct was inappropriate, showing a photo to one member of the public does not constitute invasion of privacy.
The county says that the photos were not shared with the media or posted on the internet, and thus were ‘not publicly disseminated.’
Firefighters were on the scene after the fatal helicopter crash on January 26, 2020. Vanessa claims first responders disseminated photos of the victims, including her husband and her daughter, in the aftermath
Vanessa said in her deposition last month that LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva vowed to keep the crash scene private moments after informing her that Kobe and Gianna were dead
Defense attorneys representing county officials requested the medical records in response to her claims, as they prepare for trial in February.
Bryant’s attorney fought the request, saying it came too late and further invaded Bryant’s privacy.
‘This effort should be seen for what it is: an attempt to bully Mrs. Bryant into dropping her case to avoid her private therapy records being brandished in open court and reported on by media outlets,’ Mari Saigal wrote in a court document filed on Friday.
Attorneys for the county, meanwhile, expressed sympathy for Bryant, but made clear why they were going after her medical records in court documents, according to USA Today.
‘When a plaintiff puts her mental health condition at issue and demands compensation for severe emotional distress, like Plaintiff has done here, she opens the door to discovery about her mental health,’ reads a filing last week from the firm Miller Barondess, the county’s outside counsel for the case.
‘The County’s request for Plaintiff’s therapy records is not an intimidation tactic, as Plaintiff argues; it’s a routine part of discovery in emotional distress cases.
‘Mrs. Bryant is the widow of one of the greatest and most beloved athletes of all time. She is obviously not a typical plaintiff.
‘But the rules of discovery apply equally to all litigants; there are no special exceptions for the rich and famous.’
In his ruling on Monday, Eick said an existing protective order in the case would protect Bryant’s privacy interests.
He also wrote that Bryant ‘waived her psychotherapist-patient privilege by placing into controversy the reportedly extraordinary, continuing emotional distress allegedly resulting from Defendant’s photograph-related actions or inactions.’
Following the ruling, USA Today reports, Skip Miller, of Miller Barondess , issued a statement reading: ‘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.
‘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.’