A Los Angeles judge ruled this week that Phoebe Bridgers must sit for a deposition in a defamation lawsuit filed against her by producer Chris Nelson, apparently unswayed by the singer’s claim that it was nothing more than “thinly veiled harassment.”
In a ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Curtis A. Kin agreed with Nelson’s argument that a deposition was necessary before the judge decides whether to dismiss his lawsuit, which claims Bridgers defamed him by echoing accusations of abuse made against him by another woman.
The judge said the case would live or die on whether Bridgers acted with “actual malice” – meaning she either lied intentionally or recklessly disregarded the truth when she made the claims about Nelson. And that question can likely only be answered by Bridgers, the judge said.
“Because the subjective belief of [Bridgers] is critical, defendant herself is necessarily the primary, if not sole, source of evidence regarding actual malice,” Judge Kin wrote.
Nelson sued Bridgers in September in Los Angeles court, claiming she had defamed him by posting false information to social media as part of a “vendetta to destroy plaintiff’s reputation.”
He pointed to a series of October 2020 Instagram posts, in which the singer said she had “witnessed and can personally verify much of the abuse (grooming, stealing, violence) perpetuated by Chris Nelson.” She also directed her followers to a separate thread from friend Emily Bannon, which contained more extensive allegations against Nelson.
Bridgers quickly moved to end the case, arguing that Nelson was using his lawsuit to silence her claims of abuse. Faced with that motion, Nelson demanded the right to depose her — saying it was the only way he could prove that his allegation was valid. He said denying him that chance would violate his right to due process.
Attorneys for Bridgers fired back earlier this month, claiming his request was merely designed to burden the star and delay the proceedings. “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 lawyers wrote.
On Tuesday, Judge Kin avoided those allegations and merely ruled that “good cause” exists for a deposition in such circumstance because a libel defendant is the “primary source of evidence regarding actual malice.” He ordered that the deposition must take place before April 29.
Attorneys for both sides did not immediately return requests for comment on Thursday (March 31).