Attorneys for Sumner Redstone say in newly filed court papers that they will not oppose a request by the 95-year-old billionaire’s former live-in companion for a hearing on his mental capacity “so long as his health, dignity and constitutional privacy rights are protected in the process.”
Manuela Herzer maintains Redstone’s modification of his trust deprived her of about $70 million in cash and real estate that she alleges he promised her. Redstone’s lawyers want a trial to go forward on the validity of the trust amendment.
“Herzer has tried everything under the sun to avoid an adjudication of the validity of her removal from Redstone’s trust,” his lawyers state in court papers filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
But in their court papers, Herzer’s lawyers say trust controversies such as those involving Redstone are typically filed after the trustor dies and the trust becomes irrevocable. They allege Redstone will remain subject to “undue influence or fraud” until his death.
Attorney Ronald Richards, on behalf of Herzer, has once again raised the issue of Redstone’s mental capacity and the ability of his lawyers to act in the traditional client-agent relationship. He said a case he found from the 19th century might have repercussions in the current Redstone petition and beyond.
Richards said he is pleased that Redstone’s lawyers do not oppose having a mental capacity hearing.
“We are very happy that Mr. Redstone’s attorneys agreed with our view of the law as to their agency relationship with their client,” Richards said. “We believe that after we take discovery, Mr. Redstone’s current capacity and his ability to direct this litigation will finally be properly examined in open court (and) this issue will no longer continue to infect the proceedings.”
Redstone’s lawyers argue in their filing that the law cited by Richards is inapplicable in their client’s case, but that they will go along with having a mental evaluation hearing.
“Although Herzer has no legal entitlement to the evidentiary hearing and capacity determination she requests in her motion, this sideshow must end,” Redstone’s lawyers state in their court papers. “For this reason … Redstone does not object to Herzer’s request for … an evidentiary hearing on Redstone’s capacity, so long as his health, dignity and constitutional privacy rights are protected in the process.”
The court can hear from Redstone’s nurses, doctors “and whatever other witnesses Herzer may wish to present,” according to the Redstone lawyers’ court papers.
But Redstone’s lawyers say they disagree with Richards that if Redstone is found to be mentally incapacitated, his petition for validation of the trust amendment must be dismissed. Redstone has appointed his daughter, Shari Redstone, through a power-of-attorney to act as his agent in the event he is found to be mentally unfit, according to the Redstone attorneys’ court papers.
Herzer’s lawyers have long contended that Shari Redstone is actually making the trust decisions that have negatively affected Herzer’s financial interests.
“It seems from their papers that they were already setting up plan B which is having Shari dictate the litigation, which is something we’ve been contending for two years that she’s really in charge,” Richards said. “It seems they have conceded that if the court finds he has no capacity, then she will be in charge if that power-of-attorney is allowed to remain.”
The next hearing in the case is scheduled Thursday before Judge David Cowan.
Herzer maintains that the October 2015 revision of the Redstone trust deprived Herzer of her claims to $50 million in cash and to Redstone’s Beverly Park mansion, which is valued at $20 million.
Redstone also removed Herzer from his charitable foundation, which is largely devoted to advancements in cancer treatment and burn recovery, according to her court papers, which state that she was “significantly involved” with the charity.