Judge orders Vanessa Bryant to turn over therapy records in invasion of privacy suit vs. L.A. County

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Vanessa Bryant is under court order to turn over personal therapy records in her invasion of privacy lawsuit against Los Angeles County.

The widow of Kobe Bryant filed the lawsuit alleging that she suffered emotional distress after first responders shared photos from the site of the 2020 helicopter crash site that killed Kobe, their daughter Gianna and seven others.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva admitted that members of his department took and shared the photos in personal settings, but the county argues that Bryant is suffering emotional distress strictly because of the death of her husband and daughter, not because of the photos, which it argues never went public. In response to the suit, the county filed a motion asking the court to grant it access to Bryant's therapy records.

Federal magistrate Judge Charles Eick granted that request on Monday with an order for Bryant and her therapist to produce the requested documents by Nov. 29. The ruling requires Bryant to turn over therapy records dating back to 2017.

“The requests are plainly relevant to the claims and defenses herein and, as narrowed by this order, the requests are proportional to the needs of the case,” Eick wrote in his ruling, per USA Today.

Eick is the same judge who denied the county's motion that Bryant undergo a psychiatric exam in a similar effort to disprove her allegation that the photos were a source of emotional distress. Eick ruled on Nov. 1 that the request was untimely given the case's trial scheduled to start in February.

Vanessa Bryant, widow of late basketball star Kobe Bryant, attends the world premiere of the movie
Vanessa Bryant is under court order to provide her personal therapy records. (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

Bryant's attorney criticized the request for therapy records as further invasion of her privacy in court documents filed Friday, prior to Eick's ruling.

“This effort should be seen for what it is: an attempt to bully Mrs. Bryant into dropping her case to avoid her private therapy records being brandished in open court and reported on by media outlets,” an attorney for Bryant, Mari Saigal, wrote.

Miller Barondess, a law firm representing L.A. County, argued that the motion wasn't an intimidation tactic, but a "routine part of discovery."

“When a plaintiff puts her mental condition at issue and demands compensation for severe emotional distress, like Plaintiff has done here, she opens the door to discovery about her mental health,” the filing reads. “The County’s request for Plaintiff’s therapy records is not an intimidation tactic, as Plaintiff argues; it’s a routine part of discovery in emotional distress cases."

Eick agreed with the county's argument and ruled that the request "appears neither abusive nor harassing."

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