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First Access responds to lawsuit over the death of Lil Peep

By | Published on Tuesday 7 January 2020

Lil Peep

Management firm First Access Entertainment filed papers with the Californian courts just before Christmas formally responding to the lawsuit being pursued against it by the mother of late rapper Lil Peep.

While “vehemently” denying many of the specific allegations made by Lil Peep’s mother, the management firm says that, even if those allegations were true, she wouldn’t have any case against First Access because of the nature of its contractual relationship with the rapper.

Lil Peep, real name Gustav Åhr, died in November 2017 of an accidental drugs overdose, aged 21. In her lawsuit last October, Åhr’s mother Liza Womack accused First Access and its associates of negligence and other breaches of contract that contributed to her son’s death.

She said that the management firm “allowed, normalised, and even encouraged and promoted” drug taking on her son’s tours, despite being aware of his addiction issues. And, when Åhr told his management team that touring was making him ill, “defendants ignored these cries for help and instead pushed decedent onto stage after stage in city after city, plying and propping decedent up with illegal drugs and unprescribed controlled substances all along the way”.

While First Access denies many of the specific allegations contained in Womack’s lawsuit, its legal filing last month focused more on matters of law than matters of fact.

Womack’s claim that First Access and its associates are liable for the ‘tort’ of negligence fails, First Access argues, “because Mr Åhr’s relationship with them was a business relationship governed by a contract that barred tort claims, and because these defendants did not owe an independent duty of care to Mr Åhr, breach such a duty, or cause his death”. It then adds that “the complaint’s contract claims likewise fail as a matter of law”.

The legal filing explains in some detail the nature of Åhr’s business partnership with First Access, before providing a long list of reasons why the management firm believes Womack’s case fails to prove either negligence or breach of contract, let alone a link between its conduct and Åhr’s death.

Legal reps for Womack have already responded, insisting that First Access’s relationship with Åhr was much closer than the management firm claims, and that it had control over his personal as well as professional life.

It remains to be seen how the court now responds to each sides’ arguments. Womack’s lawsuit has always seemed ambitious in its attempt to hold Åhr’s management team somehow liable for his death.

However, issues raised in the litigation feed into the wider debate about the responsibility – legally and ethically – of the music industry, and especially artist management teams, when it comes to safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the artists they work with.