A music producer who alleges singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers made false statements on social media as part of a vendetta to destroy his reputation wants a judge to allow his lawyers to take the indie rock musician’s deposition ahead of a hearing on her motion to dismiss the suit.
Plaintiff Chris Nelson filed the suit Sept. 28 in Los Angeles Superior Court, also alleging false light and emotional distress. On Feb. 14, the 27-year-old Bridgers’ attorneys brought a motion to dismiss the suit on free-speech grounds, arguing that Nelson is “seeking to chill Ms. Bridgers’ allegations of abusive conduct, which are protected by the First Amendment.”
Nelson’s lawyers state in court papers filed Thursday that they need to depose Bridgers as part of their effort to defeat the “I Know the End” singer’s motion, which is filed under the state’s anti-SLAPP — Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation — statute. The law’s intent is to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate those who are exercising their free-speech rights.
In a sworn declaration in support of her motion, Bridgers admits to publishing the statements that serve as the basis for the defamation claims, but denies acting with the requisite intent or knowledge, Nelson’s lawyers state in their court papers.
(Nelson) has a due process right to take Bridgers’ deposition and require her to produce documents in order to oppose her dismissal motion, the Nelson lawyers state in their court papers.
In his suit, Nelson alleges that after his relationship with his former girlfriend, Emily Bannon, ended in 2019, Bridgers continued a relationship with her while publishing false statements about Nelson on Instagram.
According to the lawsuit, Bridgers posted statements in 2020 to her public Instagram account, called @_fake_nudes at the time, stating she “witnessed and can personally verify much of the abuse (grooming, stealing, violence) perpetuated by Chris Nelson.”
Nelson also alleges Bridgers directed her followers to Bannon’s page, which accused Nelson of racially-motivated hate crimes, robbery and assault.
But in a sworn declaration, Bridgers defended her remarks.
“I believe that the statements I made in my Instagram story are true,” Bridgers says. “My statements were made based on my personal knowledge, including statements I personally heard Mr. Nelson make, as well as my own observations. I continue to believe the statements that I made were true.”
Bridgers adds, “I was not involved in the composition of Emily Bannon’s Instagram post.”
In their court papers, Bridgers’ attorneys argue Nelson “has held himself out as a public figure and voluntarily interjected himself into this dispute. Therefore, he is a limited purpose public figure who must prove that Ms. Bridgers acted with actual malice, which he cannot do.”
Bridgers, Nelson and Bannon were in a business relationship until Bannon ended her part of the relationship with Nelson and then in 2020 made “a number of statements criticizing Mr. Nelson’s character and behavior,” Bridgers’ attorneys argue in their court papers.
“Ms. Bridgers then independently posted an Instagram story stating that she had witnessed Mr. Nelson’s abusive behavior and warned those considering working with him to review Ms. Bannon’s post,” Bridgers’ lawyers state in their court papers.
A hearing on Nelson’s motion is set for March 29, but a hearing on the Bridgers dismissal motion has not yet been scheduled.
The singer has been a musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” and was nominated for four Grammy Awards in 2020.