UPDATED: Lil Peepâ€™s mother, Liza Womack, has sued the late rapperâ€™s managers for negligence, breach of contract and wrongful death, according to court documents; the news was first reported by the New York Times. The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday and obtained by Variety, says the rapper, who died of a drug overdose in November of 2017, was â€œstressed, overwhelmed, burnt out, exhausted and physically unwell.â€ The suit claims that Peep was an â€œimpressionable kidâ€ and that his management coerced him â€œonto stage after stage in city after city, plying and proppingâ€ him up with illegal drugs.
The suit was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday morning by Womack and the administrator of his estate against First Access Entertainment, the company run by Sarah Stennett in partnership with Len Blavatnik, the owner of Access Industries and Warner Music Group. Peep, whose real name was Gustav Elijah Ahr, signed with Stennett when he was 19.
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The suit seeks unspecified damages and names Stennett, First Accessâ€™s chief executive, who has worked with Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora and Zayn Malik; Bryant Ortega, a member of the management team; and tour manager Belinda Mercer.
In a statement issued late on Tuesday, a rep for First Access said the accusations are â€œcategorically untrueâ€ and called the lawsuit â€œgroundless and offensive.â€
â€œThis is something that I must do as a mother,â€ Womack told the Times. â€œI feel very concerned that they not be exploited,â€ she said. â€œWhat Gus had to live through is actually horrifying to me, and Iâ€™m sure heâ€™s not the only person his age in this situation.â€
The suit contends that Stennett and her company â€œfostered, promoted and encouragedâ€ drug use as a way to maintain control over the rapper, treated him â€œas a commodity rather than as a human beingâ€ and pushed him â€œto the extreme bounds of what somebody of his age and maturity level could handle emotionally, mentally,Â and physically.â€
On tour and at home, from August 2016 until Peepâ€™s death, the suit claims, â€œuse of controlled substances and illegal drugs by Decent, certain Defendants and other sinvolved in the tour, including the tour manager, was allowed, normalized and even encouraged and promoted by Defendants.
The lawsuit also claims that Stennett and Mercer provided Peep with pills, including Xanax, Percocet and ketamine, at various points in 2017, citing text messages in which Stennett communicated with him about drugs. The suit also claims that Mercer was in a sexual relationship with the rapper and says that on Oct. 25, 2017, she was detained at the Canadian border after a search by drug-sniffing dogs; it claims Stennett was aware of the incident and allowed the behavior to continue. The suit also says that at a tour stop in El Paso, Texas on the night before his death, Mercer â€œbegged the local tour staff for heavy drugsâ€ and, after Peep said he didnâ€™t want to perform, she â€œsuggest[ed]â€ that he â€œtake an excessive amount of Xanax so as to make himself sickâ€ and force a cancellation.
It claims that Mercer and others noticed that Peep looked unwell on the night of his death, but did not act. Many of the claims were first reported in a Rolling Stone article earlier this year; in it, Stennett denied through a lawyer that she had ever given Lil Peep any drug, and said she was trying to comfort him by offering pills that she did not intend to give him.
Paul A. Matiasic, a lawyer for Womack, said, â€œWe acknowledge, obviously, that Gus had a roleâ€ in his own death. However, â€œIn evaluating the legal responsibility for someoneâ€™s untimely death, it is not a binary decision,â€ he added, noting that juries in CaliforniaÂ could assign faultÂ as they see appropriate. FAE â€œhad the power, they had the influence and control over Gusâ€™s career, and specifically this tour,â€ Matiasic said. â€œThere are duties associated with having that type of control.â€
Just under a year ago, the parties all seemed to be in synch at a listening event in New York for the first Peep posthumous release, â€œCome Over When Youâ€™re Sober, Pt. 2,â€ which was released on Columbia Records in tandem with First Access. Womack, Stennett and others spoke at the event.
â€œYoung music artists in this field are dying too often,â€ Womack said. â€œThe posthumous release of a young artistâ€™s music is a problem you are all going to have to face. You are facing it now: What do you do when a young artist dies long before his time, leaving behind a legacy of finished and unfinished work and a legion of heartbroken fans?â€
â€œEverybodyâ€™s Everything,â€ a documentary about the rapper, is scheduled for release on Nov. 15, the second anniversary of his death. The film features Womack, the filmmaker Terrence Malick and Stennett as executive producers.
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