Judge Rejects Request to Throw Out Vanessa Bryant's Lawsuit Over Kobe Crash Photos

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 6, 2022

FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2020, file photo, Vanessa Bryant speaks during a celebration of life for her husband, Kobe Bryant, and daughter Gianna in Los Angeles. Vanessa Bryant has agreed to settle a lawsuit against the pilot and owners of the helicopter that crashed in 2020, killing the NBA star, his daughter Gianna, and seven others. Terms of the confidential deal weren't disclosed. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

Vanessa Bryant's civil case against Los Angeles County is still headed toward a jury trial after U.S. District Judge John F. Walter denied a request for it to be thrown out.

Bryant is suing the county for invasion of privacy and negligence and says employees of the sheriff and fire department shared photos they took of her husband and daughter following the helicopter crash that killed them.

Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today reported Walter said "there are genuine issues of material fact for trial" in making his decision.

Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among the nine people killed in a January 2020 helicopter crash.

Los Angeles County argued the case did not have merit because the photographs were deleted and were not shared with the exception of one sheriff deputy showing a bartender.

However, Bryant's attorney, Luis Li, argued otherwise:

"Mrs. Bryant has gathered ample evidence of Defendants' wrongdoing and the harm it has caused her. The close-up photos of Gianna and Kobe’s remains were passed around on at least twenty-eight LASD devices and by at least a dozen firefighters. And that was only the beginning. The gratuitous sharing continued in the following days and weeks and included such outrageous conduct as flaunting the photos in a bar while pantomiming dismemberment and showing off the photos over cocktails at an awards gala... The callous and shocking behavior uncovered by Mrs. Bryant is more than enough to survive summary judgment."

Schrotenboer suggested Bryant now has more leverage against the county if she does choose to settle, although she has not shown an inclination to do so even though two other families who lost people in the crash received $1.25 million settlements in similar lawsuits.

The trial is scheduled for Feb. 22 in Los Angeles.