Lawyers Fight to Keep Mogul's Case in Court ; Tussle Follows Suggestion That Judge Might Dismiss Sumner Redstone Suit

By Emily Steel; Michael Cieply | International New York Times, May 10, 2016 | Go to article overview

Lawyers Fight to Keep Mogul's Case in Court ; Tussle Follows Suggestion That Judge Might Dismiss Sumner Redstone Suit


Emily Steel; Michael Cieply, International New York Times


The legal team for the media mogul's ex-lover argued that his testimony should not be accepted at face value.

A former lover of the ailing media mogul Sumner M. Redstone, who is waging a legal battle over his mental competency, made a last- ditch attempt over the weekend to keep her salacious lawsuit alive.

In a filing on Sunday to Judge David J. Cowan of Los Angeles County Superior Court, lawyers for the woman, Manuela Herzer, argued that the court should hear all of the evidence and not dismiss the case, as the judge indicated he might do on Friday after he heard videotaped testimony from Mr. Redstone, a 92-year-old billionaire.

Ms. Herzer's legal team outlined two reasons for continuing the trial: First, the lawyers said, the court should not accept Mr. Redstone's testimony at face value. They said the court was "duty- bound to look behind the testimony to determine whether Redstone's views are those of a man of a sound mind and whether he came to and has maintained these views absent any undue influence."

The lawyers said that the court must hear all of the evidence from Ms. Herzer to determine the answer to those questions.

Second, they said that aborting the trial after one day and three witnesses would be "a great disservice to Redstone's best interests because, if his decisions are the product of mental illness or undue influence, the proceedings are not only reasonably necessary, but essential, to protect him."

In their own filing on Sunday, Mr. Redstone's lawyers appeared to take their lead from Judge Cowan's remarks in court on Friday, when he expressed wariness over the need to wade through what he called "all of these shenanigans" in the Redstone household.

The court "need not preside over a trial regarding the breakdown of Mr. Redstone and Ms. Herzer's relationship," Mr. Redstone's lawyers said in their new dismissal motion.

Ms. Herzer filed suit last November, claiming that Mr. Redstone lacked the capacity to make the decision to remove her from an advance directive that would have put her in charge of his health care. She said she was waging the legal battle out of concern for Mr. Redstone's well-being.

Lawyers for Mr. Redstone said Ms. Herzer was motivated by greed. On the same day he removed her from the health care directive, he also removed her from his personal estate plan, in which he had planned to leave her $50 million and his $20 million Los Angeles mansion.

The trial began Friday with the 18-minute videotape of testimony from Mr. Redstone, who has not been seen publicly for nearly a year.

After viewing the video, Judge Cowan declared that Mr. Redstone had appeared to forcefully reject the notion that Ms. Herzer should be in charge of his health care, or a part of his life at all. While he said he needed the weekend to consider whether the case should continue, Judge Cowan indicated that Mr. Redstone's testimony had raised doubts about Ms. Herzer's position. "Your burden now is a hard one," he told her legal team after viewing the tape.

In their filing on Sunday, Ms. Herzer's lawyers argued that Mr. Redstone's tone in his testimony may result from "serious cognitive impairment," and manipulation by his daughter, Shari Redstone. …

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