Four months after a judge dismissed a lawsuit brought against Phoebe Bridgers by a music producer who alleged the singer-songwriter made false and defamatory statements on social media as part of a vendetta to destroy his reputation, the same judge Thursday directed the producer to pay Bridgers nearly $500,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Curtis A. Kin held a hearing Thursday on Bridgers’ request for $670,510 in attorneys’ fees and costs from Chris Nelson, then awarded the reduced amount of $493,135.
The singer was entitled to the compensation as a result of her victory in getting the lawsuit dismissed in November, three months after the judge listened to arguments and took Bridgers’ motion under submission.
Nelson filed the suit in September 2021, also alleging false light and emotional distress. In February 2022, attorneys for the 28-year-old, Pasadena-born Bridgers brought a motion to dismiss the suit on free-speech grounds, arguing that Nelson was “seeking to chill Ms. Bridgers’ allegations of abusive conduct, which are protected by the First Amendment.”
In their court papers, Bridgers’ attorneys argued 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’ motion was 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.
Nelson alleged that after his relationship with his former girlfriend, Emily Bannon, ended in 2019, Bridgers became romantically involved with Bannon 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 alleged 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 said. “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 added, “I was not involved in the composition of Emily Bannon’s Instagram post.”
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 argued 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 stated in their court papers.
Bridgers has been a musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” and was nominated for four Grammy Awards in 2020.