A lawsuit filed by the widow of NBA star Kobe Bryant over photos taken of his body immediately after his death will begin Wednesday US time in Los Angeles.
- Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash, along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others, in January 2020
- His widow is suing the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the city’s fire department for invasion of privacy over photos taken of her husband’s body
- The lawsuit says police shared the graphic photos with firefighters and bar patrons after the crash
Vanessa Bryant is suing the LA County Sheriff’s Department and the city’s fire department for invasion of privacy, seeking unspecified millions in compensation for pictures taken of the basketballer’s body that were circulated after he was killed in a helicopter crash with their daughter and seven others in 2020.
Mrs Bryant claims deputies did not take the photos for investigative purposes, and shared them with firefighters who responded to the crash scene. The lawsuit says a deputy showed the photos to bar patrons and a firefighter showed them to off-duty colleagues.
“Mrs Bryant feels ill at the thought that sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and members of the public have gawked at gratuitous images of her deceased husband and child,” according to the lawsuit.
“She lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online.”
Kobe Bryant, their 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and other parents and players were flying to a girls’ basketball tournament when their chartered helicopter crashed in the Calabasas hills, west of Los Angeles, in fog.
Federal safety officials later blamed pilot error for the wreck.
Mrs Bryant has also sued the helicopter charter company and the deceased pilot’s estate.
The county has argued that Mrs Bryant has suffered emotional distress from the deaths, not the photos, which were ordered deleted by Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
It said the photos have never been in the media, on the internet nor otherwise publicly disseminated, and the lawsuit is speculative about harm she might suffer.
A law prompted in the aftermath of the crash makes it a crime for first responders to take unauthorised photos of deceased people at the scene of an accident or crime.
The county already agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle a similar case brought by two families whose relatives died in the January 26, 2020 crash. Vanessa Bryant did not settle her case, indicating she is seeking more.
The litigation has, at times, been contentious. When the county sought a psychiatric evaluation of Mrs Bryant to determine if she suffered emotional distress because of the photos, her lawyers criticised the “scorched-earth discovery tactics” they said were intended to bully her and other family members of victims to abandon their lawsuits.
While the county responded by saying it was sympathetic to Mrs Bryant’s losses, it dismissed her case as a “money grab”.