- Judge allows limited questioning of billionaire's doctors
- Case casts spotlight on 92-year-old media mogul’s competency
Sumner Redstone again defeated an attempt by a former girlfriend to have him interviewed by her lawyers to show that the media billionaire is incompetent to make decisions about his affairs.
A California probate court judge on Monday blocked for now a renewed request by Manuela Herzer to make Redstone, 92, give a deposition while she seeks permission to reinstall herself as his proxy if he can no longer make his own medical decisions. Judge David Cowan said he’d allow limited questioning of Redstone’s doctors before he decides whether to dismiss Herzer’s lawsuit.
The case has cast a spotlight on the mental capacity of the Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. chairman. Herzer, who was ordered out of Redstone’s house in October, was replaced as the agent on his advance health-care directive by longtime friend and Viacom Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman.
A statement by Dauman that Redstone was attentive, engaged and intelligible in recent conversations was disputed by Herzer in a Dec. 11 court filing. She said Redstone was conspicuously disengaged and inattentive to the people around him.
“I do not know what Mr. Dauman means when he uses these words, but it is not consistent with the ordinary meaning of the words ‘engaged’ and ‘attentive,’" Herzer said, referring to an Oct. 8 visit by Dauman to Redstone. “Sumner might occasionally look at someone in the room but was largely disinterested and prone to gazing in the general direction of the television."
Cowan said Monday that Herzer’s lawyers may get a chance to question Dauman ahead of the hearing to dismiss the lawsuit, now scheduled for Feb. 8.
Pierce O’Donnell, a lawyer for Herzer, said after the hearing that he intends to question Dauman about the business-related discussion he says he had with Redstone in recent months.
"I like to know what complex business conversation he had because Sumner Redstone isn’t capable of having any conversations," O’Donnell said.
Redstone’s lawyers have alleged that Herzer is solely concerned about her share of his estate. Last month, a judge agreed with them that, because Redstone was receiving good medical care, there was no urgency for him to be examined until there’s a decision on whether the lawsuit should go forward.
Herzer last week went back to court to again seek permission to have Redstone examined, arguing she can’t fight his request to throw out the case without obtaining evidence of his mental state.
“We are pleased that the court has once again rejected Ms. Herzer’s attempt to
disrupt Mr. Redstone’s life," Gabrielle Vidal, a lawyer for Redstone, said in a statement after the hearing. "Today’s ruling ensures that Mr. Redstone will be left in peace while the court hears directly from his doctors that this proceeding is unnecessary."
The case is In re Advance Health Care Directive of Sumner M. Redstone, BP168725, Los Angeles County Superior Court.