Phoebe Bridgers must sit for a deposition in the defamation lawsuit that’s been filed against her by the producer Chris Nelson.
In a ruling issued on Tuesday (March 29) a Los Angeles judge agreed with Nelson that the deposition would be necessary before deciding whether or not the lawsuit could be dismissed.
“Because the subjective belief of [Bridgers] is critical, the defendant herself is necessarily the primary, if not sole, source of evidence regarding actual malice,” Judge Curtis A. Kin said, according to court documents shared by Billboard.
In October 2020 Bridgers directed her followers on Instagram to a thread written by her friend Emily Bannon, which Nelson has claimed was defamatory.
Nelson subsequently sued the singer for defamation and is currently seeking $3.8million (£2.8million) in damages. He claims Bridgers “intentionally used her high-profile public platform on Instagram to publish false and defamatory statements” about him “in order to destroy his reputation”.
Phoebe Bridgers. CREDIT: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
In a sworn declaration filed on February 14, Bridgers responded to the allegations, saying: “I believe that the statements I made in my Instagram story are true. My statements were made based on my personal knowledge, including statements I personally heard Mr. Nelson make.”
Nelson subsequently demanded the right to depose Bridgers, saying it was the only way to prove that the musician defamed him. Earlier this month, Bridgers’ lawyers called the request “harassment”.
“Mr. Nelson’s amorphous request for discovery based on his attorney’s circular statement that it is necessary is nothing more than thinly veiled harassment,” her lawyer, Alan A. Greenberg, wrote in a March 16 court filing.
In February, Bridgers sought to end the lawsuit, citing California’s anti-SLAPP law in a new court filing. The motion filed said that Nelson is enough of a public person that he must prove that Bridgers “acted with actual malice”.
“Ms. Bridgers has submitted a declaration affirming her subjective belief in the truth of her statements, so Mr. Nelson cannot meet his burden. The court therefore should grant this special motion to strike,” they stated.
Her lawyers also noted that ruling in Nelson’s favour would defeat the purpose of the anti-SLAPP law: “If plaintiffs could justify lifting the discovery stay based solely on their lack of available evidence to oppose an anti-SLAPP motion, that would enable those with the weakest claims to inflict the expense and delay of discovery on the defendants the legislature most intended to protect by providing a procedure for courts to dismiss at an early stage non-meritorious litigation meant to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights.”
Nelson has already lost a separate defamation case against the musician, actress and director Noël Wells, after he alleged that Wells made “false” statements about him in correspondence with the band Big Thief, and had caused him emotional distress.
Wells allegedly told an artist manager with whom Nelson had a working relationship that he had committed “an ‘incredibly predatory move on [her]’” and exhibited “incredibly predatory behaviour… toward young females including young female musicians”.
Los Angeles County Judge Gregory W. Alarcon dismissed Nelson’s case against Wells at a court hearing in January. He ruled that Wells was protected under free speech rights.
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