A judge refused Friday to dismiss an elder abuse lawsuit filed by Sumner Redstone against a former live-in companion and told lawyers that the trial should take place sooner rather than later because of the 95-year-old media mogul’s age.
In seeking dismissal of the case against her, Manuela Herzer maintained the billionaire former head of Viacom and CBS Corp. lacks the capacity to control the litigation and give guidance to his attorneys.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Nieto, who presided over contentious arguments during a lengthy hearing, said her ruling denying the dismissal motion would stand but that it was “without prejudice,” meaning Herzer can raise the issue again later.
Nieto also denied Herzer’s second motion to remove lawyers from Hueston, Hennigan LLP from representing Redstone in his elder abuse suit against her. The trial is set for February 2020, but Nieto said she would welcome having it sooner.
The second Herzer motion also sought to remove the firm from representing Redstone’s daughter in a separate suit filed against her by Herzer, who maintained Hueston, Hennigan has access to privileged communications from the time she was in the Redstone household that would give Shari Redstone and advantage in fighting Herzer’s suit.
Herzer’s lawsuit against Shari Redstone is set for trial in December 2019. Herzer alleges that Shari Redstone convinced the nurses serving her father to turn him against Herzer, who was forced to move out of his home in 2015. In her complaint filed in May 2016, 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.
Herzer became so upset that during one point in the hearing, she left the courtroom and slammed the door behind her. Her departure came shortly after the judge warned Herzer’s group not to make verbal comments during the court session or they would be ordered to leave.
Before the end of the hearing, Nieto met with the attorneys in chambers. When they returned to open court, the judge ordered lawyers on both sides to meet and talk about unspecified issues in the case.
“I know there are a lot of emotions in this case,” Nieto said.
Herzer’s attorneys declined to elaborate on what the issues were.
However, in open court, Herzer’s attorneys urged Nieto to order an independent medical exam of Redstone to determine his current mental capacity and his ability to assist his attorneys. Herzer has long maintained that Shari Redstone is controlling her father’s litigation against her.
Redstone’s lawyer, Robert Klieger, said his client underwent such an examination before, found it to be difficult and does not want to go through another. He said an alternative remedy is for the judge to appoint a guardian ad litem — a person appointed by a court to protect the interests of a minor or incompetent in a particular matter — and have that person advocate on Redstone’s behalf.
Herzer attorney Ronald Richards repeatedly asked Nieto to give greater weight to a declaration he submitted from a Los Angeles police officer who concluded that Redstone was ”non-responsive” during a welfare check.
But the judge said the officer was not a doctor or medical expert and that his observations were based on just one interaction with Redstone.
The judge said she also watched, at Herzer’s request, footage that Redstone’s late film producer friend, Arnold Kopelson, shot of the former businessman with an iPhone at Redstone’s mansion on Jan. 28. Herzer’s lawyers maintained it was obvious from the video that Redstone has severe cognitive issues.
Klieger says Redstone understands the litigation and is making decisions.
Kopelson died Oct. 8 at his Beverly Hills home at age 83.