Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the late Kobe Bryant, has won another legal battle in her case against Los Angeles County, with a court order requiring the county sheriff and fire chief to answer all questions concerning her murdered husband and daughter’s images under oath.
UNCASVILLE, CT – MAY 15: Enshrinee Vanessa Bryant addresses the crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, during the 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony on May 15, 2021. NOTE TO THE END USER: By downloading and/or using this photograph, the user expressly accepts and agrees to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) has issued a mandatory copyright notice for the year 2021.
Bryant is suing the county for invasion of privacy and carelessness, alleging that sheriff’s and fire department employees inappropriately released photographs of human remains from a helicopter crash in January 2020 that killed the NBA legend, his daughter, and seven others.
Sheriff Villanueva and Fire Chief Osby appear to have “unique firsthand, non-repetitive knowledge relevant to the problems in this case” that is “not entirely accessible” from other sources, according to U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Eick.
NOVEMBER 09, LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: On November 09, 2019 in Los Angeles, California, Vanessa Laine Bryant and Kobe Bryant attend the 2019 Baby2Baby Gala hosted by Paul Mitchell. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images/Stefanie Keenan for Baby2Baby)
The county had sought to prevent their testimony, claiming that heads of government agencies like Villanueva and Osby “are not ordinarily subject to deposition, absent special circumstances.” The verdict is a blow for the county.
This provision, according to the county, protects officials “against discovery that will impede their ability to execute their duties, particularly given the frequency with which such officials are expected to be identified in litigation.”
“While we disagree with the court’s judgment, we will make both the Sheriff and the Fire Chief available for deposition,” said Skip Miller, partner of the Miller Barondess legal firm in Los Angeles, after the judge’s verdict Tuesday. “Their testimony will do nothing to change the fact that no images taken by County first responders have ever been made public.”