Judge denies motion to dismiss Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against L.A. County over crash photos

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Vanessa Bryant’s case against Los Angeles County will move forward.

A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a motion filed by the county to dismiss Bryant’s lawsuit against them over the handling of photos taken at the crash site that killed Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna and seven others in 2020, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles County lawyers had filed a motion for summary judgment in an effort to dismiss the case entirely. U.S. District Judge John F. Walter denied that motion on Wednesday, per the report, saying that “there are genuine issues of material facts for trial.”

“This has always been about accountability,” Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement, via the Times. “We look forward to presenting the facts to a jury.”

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit against L.A. County moving forward

Bryant filed a lawsuit against the county in 2020, shortly after her husband, daughter and others were killed in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles in January of that year.

In the lawsuit, Bryant alleged that several deputies took and shared graphic photos of victims from the crash site. She later named those deputies publicly on instagram. One officer allegedly shared photos at a bar just days after the incident and was “boasting” about them, which prompted another patron in the bar to file a complaint with the sheriff’s department. Another officer allegedly shared photos with a friend he plays video games with.

Bryant said that photos spread to at least 10 members of the department within 48 hours, and that one deputy took up to 100 photos on his personal phone. She also said that Sheriff Alex Villanueva didn’t tell internal affairs about the incident until after it was made public, and said the officers wouldn’t face any discipline if they just deleted the pictures.

In her deposition last year, Bryant said that Villanueva assured her that day that the crash site was secure from anyone who would take photos — something that clearly didn’t happen.

The county has tried to claim that Bryant isn’t suffering from emotional distress from any pictures, but simply from the crash itself. A judge denied the county’s request in November to force Bryant to undergo a psychiatric examination.

“It is undisputed that the complained-of photos have never been in the media, on the internet, or otherwise publicly disseminated,” the county’s attorneys wrote in seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, via The Times. “Instead, [Bryant] testified that this case is about her ‘having to fear those photographs surfacing.’ But a preemptive, speculative lawsuit about what ‘may’ or ‘could’ happen, as [Bryant] testified, fails as a matter of law.”

Villanueva has since been dismissed from the case, and the county has agreed to a settlement for other suits filed by families of other victims in the crash.

A trial can start as soon as next month, per the Times.

“The county did not cause Ms. Bryant’s loss and, as was promised on the day of the crash, none of the county’s accident site photos were ever publicly disseminated. The county did its job and looks forward to showing that at trial,” a lawyer representing the county said in a statement, via the Times.

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