Vanessa Bryant has filed a lawsuit against Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, alleging that several of his deputies shared photos of the helicopter crash that killed her husband and daughter, Kobe and Gianna Bryant, and seven others in January.
Vanessa Bryant was “shocked and devastated” by the reports, the lawsuit states.
The suit seeks damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
“This lawsuit is about accountability and about preventing this disgraceful behavior from happening to other families in the future who have suffered loss,” Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Luis Li, said in a statement. “The department formally refused Mrs. Bryant’s requests for information saying it was ‘unable to assist’ with any inquiry and had no legal obligation to do so. It’s now for a court to tell the department what its obligations are.”
Beyond incorrectly telling the AP that it is now a crime for public officials to take or share photos from accidents (that measure has not yet been signed into law but is currently on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk, according to the Times), the sheriff’s department did not comment on the lawsuit, citing the pending nature of the litigation.
Vanessa Bryant had previously filed a wrongful death lawsuit against both Island Express, the helicopter service her husband and daughter were using on the day of the accident, and the pilot’s estate, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. That litigation is still ongoing.
Since Kobe and Gianna’s deaths, Vanessa Bryant has also urged the United States Congress to pass the “Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant Helicopter Safety Act,” legislation introduced by Democratic lawmakers that would “require all helicopters certified to carry six or more people to be equipped with a Terrain Awareness and Warning System, a flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder.”