The Truth About Vanessa Bryant's Lawsuit With LA County

The death of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant continues to impact millions today. On January 26, 2020, Bryant and seven other passengers boarded a helicopter at John Wayne-Orange County Airport, as USA Today reported. According to the outlet, the group — which consisted of Bryant, his daughter Gianna, John and Keri Altobelli, their daughter Alyssa, Sarah Chester, her daughter Payton, and assistant coach Christina Mauser — were on their way to Thousand Oaks, California, for a youth basketball game. Poor visibility in the mountainous terrain (where the group was traveling) led to the helicopter's ultimate descent and crash.

The deaths of everyone onboard sent shockwaves through the Lakers fanbase and the world. For Vanessa Bryant, the death of her husband and daughter was especially devastating as she had given birth to her fourth child, Capri Bryant, mere months before the crash, according to People. A year after the tragic accident, Vanessa remained open about how she was processing her grief. In January 2021, she posted to Instagram Stories about how "grief is a messed-up cluster of emotions" (via E! News). "One day you're in the moment laughing and the next you don't feel like being alive," she continued, encouraging everyone to, "Find your reason to live." As of this writing, Vanessa continues to mourn her husband and daughter — and in the midst of her grief, she's doing everything she can to ensure that her children are protected from seeing unauthorized photos of the crash site and reliving the tragic day.

Vanessa Bryant is suing the LA County Sheriff's Department

On September 17, 2020, Vanessa Bryant filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, seeking "unspecified damages for negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of Ms. Bryant's privacy," as reported by the New York Times. The lawsuit alleged that several law officials present at the crash site pulled out their personal cell phones and took pictures of the victims' bodies. It further claimed that one of the deputies there later shared the images with a woman at a bar in Norwalk, California. He was eventually reported by a bartender who overheard the conversation, per the New York Times.

Bryant stated in the lawsuit that she "lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online." As of September 2021, the suit is still being fought by the LA County Sheriff's Department, who went so far as to call Bryant's claims "misdirected," per USA Today. According to the county, photos of the crash site were not posted online, nor were they sent to anyone outside the county — with the exception being the woman at the bar in Norwalk.

The LA County Sheriff's Department is fighting back

Vanessa Bryant's suit against the LA County Sheriff's Department isn't the only one she's filed since her husband's death. In June 2021, USA Today reported that she and the families of the deceased passengers agreed to drop wrongful death charges against Island Express Helicopters, the operators of the downed helicopter, in exchange for a settlement. As of September 2021, the LA County Sheriff's Department is attempting to use this as leverage in their case against Bryant's additional lawsuit, in which she is suing for negligence and emotional distress. Per USA Today, the county is trying to uncover how much money Bryant and the other plaintiffs received in the wrongful death suit, which could show they are "double-dipping" by seeking the same damages in two separate lawsuits. 

However, Bryant's attorneys maintain that the lawsuits are different. And in the case of Bryant's lawsuit, it is "about county officials' conduct after the crash — taking and sharing photos of plaintiffs' loved ones' bodies," the plaintiffs told USA Today. "Whereas the claims in the Island Express action were for damages flowing from the deaths of plaintiffs' loved ones, the claims against the county in this case are for the county's disrespect for the dead." As of this writing, the dispute is ongoing.