The attorneys asked for a jury trial and compensatory damages of at least $75,000, with punitive damages to be determined later.
With the filing, the woman's attorneys backed up a threat they made a week ago. A criminal case requires a higher standard of proof to convict — beyond a reasonable doubt — and punishment can involve prison time. A civil case has a lower standard of proof — a preponderance of evidence — and punishment is usually a monetary award.
"This does not preclude the criminal case from going forward although it certainly doesn't help the prosecution's chances of gaining a conviction because now defense attorneys will be able to ask the alleged victim on the witness stand whether her motivation for the allegation is money -- via the civil suit," says CBSNews.com Legal Analyst Andrew Cohen.
"The filing itself is not a surprise, in fact it would have been a surprise had it not been filed. The only thing that is a surprise is that the lawsuit was filed in federal court in Denver and not in state court up in Eagle. Clearly, the alleged victim's attorneys feel she is going to get a better deal before a federal judge and a larger jury pool if the civil case goes to trial," says Cohen.
"This could be another step toward the end of criminal case against Bryant -- certainly it suggests that the alleged victim is interesting in pursuing her other legal options and the civil suit does not in any way help prosecutors because it gives the defense even more ammunition to use against the alleged victim at trial," Cohen says.
Bryant 25, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual assault. He has said he had consensual sex with the woman, then 19, at the Vail-area resort where she worked last summer. The Los Angeles Lakers star faces four years to life in prison or 20 years to life on probation, and a fine of up to $750,000 if convicted. Jury selection begins Aug. 27.
"The conduct of defendant Bryant demonstrates willful, reckless and intentional criminal conduct and that entire want of care that raises a conscious indifference to consequences," the attorneys wrote.
Bryant's defense attorney, Pamela Mackey, did not immediately return a message seeking comment and neither did the woman's attorneys, John Clune and L. Lin Wood. All attorneys in the case were reminded by the judge last week that a sweeping gag order is in place.
Prosecution spokeswoman Krista Flannigan said the civil lawsuit changes nothing for the criminal trial.
"We are still moving forward," she said. She declined comment when asked whether the civil case could complicate the effort to win a conviction.