Attorneys for Sumner Redstone told a judge Thursday that although they do not oppose a request by the 95-year-old billionaire’s former live-in companion for a hearing on his mental capacity, they will not concur with having him examined by an independent mental health expert.
The disagreement between Redstone’s legal team and Manuela Herzer is headed for a showdown hearing in late October before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan, who said he wants to keep the case on track for a Jan. 14 trial on the validity of Redstone’s modification of his trust that deprived Herzer of about $70 million in cash and real estate that she alleges he promised her.
Herzer maintains the former Viacom and CBS Corp. chairman lacked the mental capacity in April to modify the trust, but Redstone attorney Robert Klieger disputed that argument.
“He has an amazing comprehension of what’s happening,” said Klieger, who added that he accompanied Redstone not long ago to a baseball game.
Klieger said, however, that Redstone’s communication skills have declined.
“He has a very hard time speaking,” Klieger said. “He uses an iPad to answer questions.”
Klieger said Redstone believes ordering an independent psychological evaluation would invade his privacy.
“It’s something he’s been through before and, frankly, it’s not something he wants to go through again,” said Klieger, who said he favors appointing a “modified guardian ad litem” to assist Redstone in the case.
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, said after the hearing that he wants to examine the logs of Redstone’s nurses and to find out who has communicated in any way with Redstone in recent months so that they can be deposed.
“We don’t believe he had the capacity to file the petition,” said Richards, who also said he will file a motion to dismiss the petition in a hearing set in late November.
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.
Klieger said that although he cannot predict what Shari Redstone would do if her father died, he believes it’s possible she would file her own petition to have the trust amendment validated.
Herzer’s lawyers have long contended that Shari Redstone is actually making the trust decisions that have negatively affected Herzer’s financial interests.
Herzer maintains that the October 2015 revision of the Redstone trust deprived her 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.
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