A Los Angeles judge has dismissed a $3.8 million defamation lawsuit filed against Phoebe Bridgers by Chris Nelson, a producer and recording studio owner who claimed the singer-songwriter made false and defamatory statements on social media “in order to destroy his reputation.”
In February, Bridgers’ legal team filed an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) motion to strike Nelson’s complaint on the basis that the lawsuit is “seeking to chill” her allegations of abusive conduct, violating her right to free speech. California’s anti-SLAPP statute aims to prevent people from using courts and potential lawsuits to intimidate and silence people from exercising their First Amendment rights.
Judge Curtis A. Kin has now granted Bridgers’ dismissal request. “We feel vindicated that the Court recognized this lawsuit as frivolous and without merit,” a spokesperson for Phoebe Bridgers wrote in a statement. “It was not grounded in law, or facts, but was filed with the sole intention of causing harm to our client’s reputation and career. This victory is important not just for our client but for all those she was seeking to protect by using her platform.”
Responding to Nelson’s lawsuit, which was filed in September 2021, Bridgers wrote in a sworn declaration on February 14: “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, as well as my own observations. I continue to believe the statements that I made were true.”
In her initial post, Bridgers directed her followers to a thread written by her friend Emily Bannon on Instagram. “I witnessed and can personally verify much of the abuse (grooming, stealing, violence) perpetuated by Chris Nelson, owner of a studio called Sound Space,” it read. “For anyone who knows [Nelson], is considering working with him, or wants to know more, there is an articulate and mind-blowing account on @emilybannon’s page as a highlight. TRIGGER WARNING for basically everything triggering.”
At an August court hearing, Judge Curtis Kin hinted that he was “leaning” toward granting Bridgers’ motion to strike. “It would seem to me that the posting by Ms. Bridgers is one that is a matter of public interest,” he said (via Rolling Stone). “It seems to me that her statements on Instagram are statements that concern a person who’s in the public eye, as well as statements that could directly affect a large number of persons beyond Mr. Nelson and Ms. Bridgers.”
Nelson previously lost a separate defamation case against singer-songwriter Noël Wells, after he claimed Wells had made “false, defamatory, and misleading” comments when she allegedly warned Big Thief against working with him in July 2020. Los Angeles County Judge Gregory W. Alarcon ruled that Wells’ comments, made “in the advancement or assistance of the creation of music,” were protected under free speech rights.