Bryant’s Accuser May File Suit in O.C.
Kobe Bryant’s accuser is considering filing her civil suit against the Laker star in Orange County because there is no limit on financial damages in California, one of her attorneys said Sunday.
The 20-year-old woman filed a federal suit in Denver in August, three weeks before the felony sexual assault charge against Bryant was dropped in Eagle County, Colo. Civil juries in Colorado can award damages of no more than $366,000 for pain and suffering, and the total amount a plaintiff can win is about $2.5 million.
Civil cases can be filed in the jurisdiction where the defendant lives as well as where the incident occurred. Bryant lives in Newport Beach with his wife and daughter.
“The more research we do, the more we seem inclined to favor California over Colorado,” said attorney Lin Wood, who has represented the accuser since early July.
“The limits in Colorado are onerous and unfair,” Wood said. “I’m not sure my client could achieve justice. There is a night and day difference in terms of compensation.”
Wood said he had conferred with California civil attorneys and would decide within 30 days whether to proceed. Because the action would be in a California state court, the woman could continue to pursue her federal suit in Colorado until one of the cases was resolved, Wood said.
Bryant’s attorneys could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Bryant, 26, was accused of raping the woman at a resort hotel near Vail on June 30, 2003. Pretrial legal wrangling lasted more than a year.
The criminal charge was dropped in September because the woman decided not to testify after struggling on the stand during a mock trial. On the day the charge was dropped, her attorneys handed out to reporters a signed apology statement from Bryant that had been fashioned in secret talks between both parties’ attorneys. The apology statement -- in which Bryant maintained he believed the encounter was consensual but had come to understand the woman did not -- also said no financial settlement had been discussed.
Bryant could have been sentenced to life in prison.
His attorneys planned to attack the woman’s credibility by presenting evidence that she had sex with someone else in the 15 hours after the alleged rape and before her medical examination. A previously sealed court document released Friday revealed that four days before the dismissal, the trial judge ruled that the defense could question the woman’s ex-boyfriend about his refusal to supply a DNA sample.
The newly released documents also established that Donna Rosenberg, a doctor and forensic expert, was prepared to testify that there was “overwhelmingly a logical inference” that the woman had sex after the alleged rape and before her exam.
The dismissal pleased Wood, who believed a criminal trial would have been disastrous for his client and urged her to pursue the case in civil court. He said that he and co-counsel John Clune filed the suit in Colorado because it was more convenient.
“We wanted to file in Colorado in advance of the criminal trial,” Wood said. “We still feel that Colorado is preferable for our witnesses.”
Wood acknowledged that the NBA all-star “might be viewed more favorably by the jury pool” on his home turf, but he also said his research has established Orange County as a “fair jurisdiction.” Regardless of the battleground, Wood said, he does not expect Bryant to settle quickly or easily.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought lawsuit,” he said. “So we’d certainly rather go into a jurisdiction where we are not facing an onerous limit. That’s common sense.”