UPDATED: Lil Peep’s mother, Liza Womack, has sued the late rapper’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 “stressed, overwhelmed, burnt out, exhausted and physically unwell.” The suit claims that Peep was an “impressionable kid” and that his management coerced him “onto stage after stage in city after city, plying and propping” 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.
The suit seeks unspecified damages and names Stennett, First Access’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 “categorically untrue” and called the lawsuit “groundless and offensive.”
“This is something that I must do as a mother,” Womack told the Times. “I feel very concerned that they not be exploited,” she said. “What Gus had to live through is actually horrifying to me, and I’m sure he’s not the only person his age in this situation.”
The suit contends that Stennett and her company “fostered, promoted and encouraged” drug use as a way to maintain control over the rapper, treated him “as a commodity rather than as a human being” and pushed him “to the extreme bounds of what somebody of his age and maturity level could handle emotionally, mentally, and physically.”
On tour and at home, from August 2016 until Peep’s death, the suit claims, “use 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 claims that Mercer provided Peep with pills, including Xanax, Percocet and Ketamine, at various points in 2017 and cites a text message in which Stennett communicated with him about Xanax. 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 “begged the local tour staff for heavy drugs” and, after Peep said he didn’t want to perform, she “suggest[ed]” that he “take an excessive amount of Xanax so as to make himself sick” 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, “We acknowledge, obviously, that Gus had a role” in his own death. However, “In evaluating the legal responsibility for someone’s untimely death, it is not a binary decision,” he added, noting that juries in California could assign fault as they see appropriate. FAE “had the power, they had the influence and control over Gus’s career, and specifically this tour,” Matiasic said. “There are duties associated with having that type of control.”
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, “Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 2,” which was released on Columbia Records in tandem with First Access. Womack, Stennett and others spoke at the event.
“Young music artists in this field are dying too often,” Womack said. “The posthumous release of a young artist’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?”
“Everybody’s Everything,” 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.