Vanessa Bryant Says Mother Trying to 'Extort a Financial Windfall' from Her with 'Hurtful' Lawsuit
According to court documents filed Tuesday in California that were obtained by PEOPLE, Sofia Laine, 68, is suing her daughter Vanessa, 38, for financial support, claiming she worked unpaid as a "longtime personal assistant and nanny" for the family. Laine adds in the lawsuit that before his death on Jan. 26 at age 41, Kobe had "promised to take care of" his mother-in-law "for the rest of her life."
"Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant's promises did not see the light of day as he is now deceased, and Vanessa Bryant took each and every step she could to void and cancel all of Kobe Bryant's promises made to [Laine]. Vanessa Bryant did not intend to honor any of the Bryants' representations, agreements and promises at any stage."
In a statement to PEOPLE, Vanessa — who also lost 13-year-old daughter Gianna in the same helicopter crash that killed her husband and seven other victims — claims her mother is "continuing to try and find ways to extort a financial windfall from our family."
"I have supported her for nearly 20 years, and she was never my or Kobe's personal assistant, nor was she a nanny," says Vanessa, who is also mom to daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 4, and Capri Kobe, 18 months. "I have always been a stay-at-home mother and my husband and I were our daughters' full-time caregivers."
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"For nearly two decades, we arranged for my mother to live in our nearby properties, at no cost to her because she had claimed that she didn't have any money to buy her own home after her divorce," she tells PEOPLE in her statement. "My husband and I felt it was best for her not to live in our home. She watched our girls from time to time, just like most grandparents do. She did not take care of business issues or expenses."
"She was a grandmother who was supported by me and her son-in-law at my request," Vanessa claims. "She now wants to back-charge me $96 per hour for supposedly working 12 hours a day for 18 years for watching her grandchildren. In reality, she only occasionally babysat my older girls when they were toddlers. As of 10 years ago, our kids were full-time students and athletes and I didn't have another child until 2016. Her claims are obviously false but I still tried, repeatedly, to work things out with my mother."
She adds, "Contrary to what she's saying, I haven't left my children's side since the accident except to visit the cemetery to make arrangements."
Vanessa says even after her mother claimed in an interview with Univision back in September that Vanessa forced her out of a family home, as well as made her return a car she used — an interview the widow slammed as "beyond hurtful" — Vanessa says she was still financially providing for Laine.
"Earlier this year, I was looking for a new home for her and, a week later, she went on television and gave an interview disparaging our family and making false accusations while living rent-free in a gated apartment complex in Newport Coast," claims Vanessa. "Even after that betrayal, I was willing to provide my mother with monthly support for the rest of her life and that wasn't good enough."
"She instead contacted me through intermediaries (contrary to what she claims, my phone number hasn't changed) and demanded $5 million, a house and a Mercedes SUV," Vanessa alleges. "Because I did not give in to her hurtful threats and monetary requests, she has spiraled out of control and is making false and absurd claims."
Vanessa adds that Laine is "now trying to get more money than my husband and I ever spent to provide for her while he was alive." She also criticizes the lawsuit as "frivolous, disgraceful and unimaginably hurtful."
"She has no regard for how this is affecting my children and me," she says, claiming, "She wants to live off of my daughters and me for the rest of her life while continuing to collect monthly alimony from her ex-husband since 2004. My husband and I have never discouraged or kept her from providing for herself."
"My husband never promised my mother anything," says Vanessa, "and he would be so disappointed in her behavior and lack of empathy."