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Vanessa Bryant looks to expand scope of lawsuit over crash photos

Feb 24, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Vanessa Bryant weeps while delivering her speech during the memorial to celebrate the life of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Vanessa Bryant and her attorneys asked for more time to pursue action against the Los Angeles County sheriff’s and fire departments after some of its members allegedly took and shared graphic photos of the helicopter crash scene that killed Kobe Bryant, their daughter Gianna and seven others.

Bryant’s attorneys, who are suing Los Angeles County for negligence and invasion of privacy, said new information has come to light. They asked for the discovery period to gather evidence be extended from August to February, and they asked for a trial date to be pushed back to April.

“Mrs. Bryant has since learned that the number of LASD and (L.A. County Fire Department) employees who took, shared, and/or possessed improper photos of the accident scene is actually eighteen (and counting) and that sixty-six County employees have relevant knowledge of the misconduct,” said the filing submitted in federal court.

Four sheriff’s deputies already have been named in the lawsuit. Bryant could add other first responders to the suit because of new information.

Bryant states in the lawsuit that she is seeking punitive damages against the defendants “to punish them and make an example of them to the community.” Her husband and daughter were killed Jan. 26, 2020, when the helicopter they were riding in crashed on a foggy morning in hilly terrain in Calabasas, Calif.

The request for extra time came with allegations that improper actions went beyond the sheriff’s department.

“According to the reports and letters, two Fire Department employees took photos of victims’ remains at the crash site that ‘served no business necessity’ and instead ‘only served to appeal to baser instincts and desires for what amounted to visual gossip,'” according to a written declaration filed by attorney Craig Lavoie. “One of the employees, a safety officer who was at the site solely to monitor safety procedures, was observed taking graphic photos focused on the victims’ remains. Both of the employees who took photos of remains sent them to a third Fire Department employee who was on site to assist with press briefings and to respond to inquiries from the media.”

In response to the allegations, the county’s attorneys have said the photos were not shared publicly and the case is without merit.

“The County does not condone this showing of accident site photographs and has taken corrective personnel actions accordingly,” the county said in a filed response to her lawsuit. “That does not mean, however, that Plaintiff has viable legal claims.”

–Field Level Media