Can Grandparents Sue for Unpaid Wages for Childcare? Kobe Bryant’s Mother-In-Law Just Did.

The late Kobe Bryant’s mother-in-law, Sofia Laine, has sued her own daughter – Vanessa Bryant. Vanessa Bryant inherited control of an estate valued at about $600 million after Kobe’s sudden death in a helicopter accident earlier this year.

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In September 2020, Sofia appeared on a Spanish-language television show and told the host that Vanessa had evicted her and left her homeless.

“She told me, ‘I need you to get out of this house,’ Sofia said in the tearful Spanish language interview. “She also told me that she wanted her car and she wants it now.”

Vanessa immediately issued an exclusive statement to People:

“My husband and daughter passed away unexpectedly and yet my mom has the audacity to do an interview on TV talking negatively about me while shedding tears about a car and home that wasn’t in her name,” wrote Vanessa. “She has removed all her diamond jewelry, emptied her apartment that I provide, and put the furniture in storage to appear as though she is without support. My husband and I have financially supported her over the past 20 years, and I continue to do so, in addition to her monthly alimony.”

In a lawsuit filed in December 2020, Laine claims that Kobe and Vanessa Bryant hired her as a personal assistant and nanny to their daughters at $96 an hour, with the rate decided by her daughter. Laine also said that the late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant pledged to take care of her for the rest of her life. However, Laine claims that after Kobe and Gianna Bryant died on Jan. 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash, Vanessa Bryant voided “everything I was entitled to.”

Vanessa alleged that her mother was attempting to “back-charge” the equivalent of a $96 hourly wage “for supposedly working 12 hours a day for 18 years for watching her grandchildren” and also “demanded $5 million, a house and a Mercedes SUV” from her.

“In reality, she only occasionally babysat my older girls when they were toddlers,” Vanessa Bryant has claimed in response to her mother’s lawsuit. She points out that she herself was a stay-at-home mother who looked after her own children.

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So can grandparents like Kobe Bryant’s mother-in-law sue for unpaid childcare? Of course! It all comes down to whether they can prove there was a contract – either verbal or written. In California, oral contracts are just as enforceable as written contracts, albeit harder to prove. California law also supports a lawsuit based on “false promise,” which can occur when the promisee relies on the promisor’s promise and, in reliance, changes their own position because of the promise. Is a vague promise enforceable? For example, Laine claims that Kobe Bryant promised to take care of her for the rest of her life. What does that mean? And did Kobe Bryant make that promise on the condition that Laine perform certain duties, such as childcare for her grandchildren? Some promises are illusory and unenforceable due to indefiniteness or lack of mutuality, where only one side is bound to perform.

Laine’s lawsuit raises another question: If Kobe Bryant had promised to take care of his mother-in-law for life, why didn’t he already do it? He had the means for many years to give her a big gift of cash or real estate. As with most lawsuits, there’s little doubt that Laine’s will be settled out of court to avoid the embarrassment of private family information being exposed through discovery or trial.

What do you think? Do family members ever reconcile after ugly lawsuits? Even if Kobe made a promise to take care of her for life, should Laine have counted her blessings and let it go?

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