Vanessa Bryant Could Face Psych Evaluation to Prove 'Distress' in Leaked Crash Photos Suit

Vanessa Bryant filed a legal complaint against Los Angeles County last year, claiming that leaked photos of her husband Kobe and daughter Gianna's fatal helicopter crash site caused emotional distress

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Vanessa Bryant. Photo: ESPN

Vanessa Bryant might be required to undergo an involuntary psychiatric evaluation as part of her ongoing lawsuit against Los Angeles County.

The county is demanding Vanessa, 39, undergo an independent medical evaluation to prove that leaked photos of the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband Kobe Bryant and their 13-year-old daughter Gianna caused emotional distress, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.

The order, which has not yet been approved by the court, also extends to the loved ones of the other crash victims involved in the suit, including the young children of Matt Mauser, who are identified only by their initials. (Mauser's wife Christina was killed in the crash.)

Attorneys for Vanessa declined PEOPLE's request for comment.

In the court filing, attorneys for L.A. County argued that mental evaluations "are not only relevant, but necessary for the County to mount its defense to these claims and to evaluate the existence, extent and nature of Plaintiffs' alleged emotional injuries."

Vanessa Bryant Instagram
Vanessa Bryant Instagram

"Defendants' position is that, while Plaintiffs have undoubtedly suffered severe distress and trauma from the crash and resulting loss of their loved ones, their distress was not caused by Defendants or any accident site photos that were never publicly disseminated," the document states.

According to forensic and clinical psychiatrist Stephen M. Raffle, M.D.'s website, a mental examination is not necessary in order for emotional distress to be proved in court cases. Raffle, who practices in California and is not affiliated with Bryant's case, did note in a post on his website about the topic, however, that he has been told by "many attorneys" that emotional distress is a "good cause for the defendant to require the plaintiff to undergo a mental examination."

Vanessa filed a legal complaint last year against Los Angeles County, as well as its sheriff's office and fire department, claiming that deputies "publicly disseminated photos from the helicopter crash site" after she personally requested "that the area be designated a no-fly zone and protected from photographers."

"This is an unspeakable violation of human decency, respect, and of the privacy rights of the victims and their families. We are demanding that those responsible for these alleged actions face the harshest possible discipline, and that their identities be brought to light, to ensure that the photos are not further disseminated," her attorney Gary C. Robb said in a statement in March 2020, one year before a judge ruled that the identities of the deputies involved could be shared.

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Along with the families of the seven other crash victims, Vanessa reached a settlement agreement in June in the wrongful death lawsuit against the company that owned the helicopter involved. The terms of the settlement have been kept confidential.

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