SEVERE?: L.A. County wants Vanessa Bryant to Undergo Psychiatric Exam Before her Lawsuit Goes to Trial

Is LA county being unfair?

Los Angeles County is seeking to compel psychiatric evaluations for Kobe Bryant’s widow and others to determine if they truly suffered emotional distress after first responders took and shared graphic photos from the site of the 2020 helicopter crash that killed the basketball star, his teenage daughter and seven others, court documents say. Vanessa Bryant, whose federal lawsuit against the county alleges invasion of privacy, has claimed in court papers that she has experienced “severe emotional distress” that has compounded the trauma of losing her husband and 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Attorneys for Los Angeles County want the court to order Bryant and other family members of the people who were killed in the crash, including children, to undergo psychiatric evaluations as independent medical examinations. The lawyers propose that the evaluations be audio- and video-recorded and last eight hours for adults and four to six hours for children. The county contends that while the families “have undoubtedly suffered severe distress and trauma from the crash and resulting loss of their loved ones, their distress was not caused by (the first responders) or any accident site photos that were never publicly disseminated.” LA County attorneys wrote in court papers that such psychiatric examinations are “necessary to evaluate the nature and extent” of the families’ alleged injuries.

Good cause for a defense mental examination requires a two-step proof. First, plaintiff’s mental condition must be in controversy. Second, there must be a demonstration of specific facts justifying the discovery. For instance, in an employment action, a plaintiff may have previously been tested and interviewed by a psychologist for worker’s comp, and making that evaluation available to defendant can preclude justifying another mental exam, even though the mental condition has been tendered. Here, the county is essentially within their legal rights to require Mrs. Bryant to take these psychiatric evaluations as emotional distress cases for compensatory (money) damages require substantial proof of a substantially severe reaction to the distress. Simultaneously, a majority of courts do not require physical evidence of severe distress as long as the act was extreme enough. An attorney could likely argue that the thought of strangers seeing your celebrity husband and daughter’s gratuitously harmed bodies would be sufficiently extreme, and allow Mrs. Bryant to collect in her lawsuit.

Do you think LA county should be requiring these evaluations?

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