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Why 'Emotional Distress' And Instagram Are At The Heart Of Vanessa Bryant's Lawsuit Against L.A. County

screenshot of Kobe Bryant
(Image credit: All the Smoke Podcast)

In the aftermath of the helicopter accident that killed Kobe Bryant, his teenage daughter, Gianna, and several others back in 2020, it was reported that the first responders on the scene later circulated photos of the crash site. As a result, the NBA legend’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, filed a lawsuit against L.A. County, which is moving forward slowly but surely. The latest details to come out regarding the case address how “emotional distress” and Instagram are at the heart of the matter.

Previously, the presiding judge scolded both Vanessa Bryant’s legal team and the defense for putting forth hundreds of pages in court concerning exhibits that had no “semblance of order.” The two camps were supposedly ordered to whittle things down to the most important pieces of evidence, so it would not become a “never-ending battle.” Alas, no such luck because it seems now that it’s a battle over what is and is not important. According to documents filed in district court, obtained by Law & Crime, L.A. County is fighting heavily for Bryant’s Instagram posts to be included in the upcoming trial. As they see it, the images and words therein are “critical” in gauging how much (or how little) the circulated crash photos actually caused her “emotional distress” as she claims. The questions they want to investigate in court with them include:

What was Plaintiff posting about the loss of her family members, the helicopter crash, and the issues in this lawsuit? What was she saying about what and how she was doing?

The filing attaches nearly 90 different Instagram posts from the 40-year-old mother’s account. Among them are images related to Kobe Bryant’s now-called Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, Vanessa’s laughing selfies and magazine cover shoots. There are also several posts that show her posing with other celebs – like Vin Diesel, Tyrese, JLo, Ciara, Kris Jenner and more – as well as in various countries for family vacations. The outlet noted that one post – where Vanessa was dressed up as Disney’s Cruella de Vil for Halloween and made comments about “revenge” being part of the grieving process – might be particularly damaging for her suit.

The implication from L.A. County appears to be that if the late basketball star’s wife is claiming emotional distress, that doesn't seem to be the case based on her Instagram feed. The docs state that a jury would need to see these exhibits for themselves in order to properly judge whether the crash site photos were the real cause of any alleged distress or if it was just the crash itself:

Plaintiff’s emotional state is at the center of this case, and there is little more revealing of Plaintiff’s emotional state than her own words about her life, sadness, the targets of her anger, her activities, and other stressors that could contribute to any emotional distress.

However, Vanessa Bryant is fighting against these posts from becoming part of the trial slated for August. Her argument is that the star-studded and lavish pics would potentially cause the jury to be biased towards her. In other words, if they see she lives a rather comfortable lifestyle (one that she’s technically always had since marrying Kobe back in 2001), then they might decide the outcome based on need rather than fairness. She alleges too that the defense’s exhibits are not only irrelevant but also confusing and unnecessary.

The judge is expected to rule on the Instagram posts in question in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the sports world continues to mourn the loss of the former Los Angeles Lakers player to this day. Homage was famously paid to Kobe Bryant on ESPN’s The Last Dance docuseries (now available for Netflix subscribers to stream). On July 20, too, Golden State Warrior Klay Thompson honored both Kobe and his daughter Gigi during his ESPY award acceptance speech, which Vanessa responded to personally on Instagram, saying that Thompson was a “class act.”

She has been steadfast as well in her tributes to her late husband and daughter on social media, to include the rather heartbreaking message last August on what was supposed to be the Black Mamba’s 42nd birthday. Hopefully, the current lawsuit finds a resolution sooner rather than later.

Lauren Vanderveen
Lauren Vanderveen

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.