A Los Angeles judge Monday named a longtime probate attorney to be the guardian ad litem for 95-year-old Sumner Redstone in trial of the billionaire’s upcoming litigation against a former live-in companion, subject to the nominee’s acceptance of the job.
Attorneys for both Redstone and his former companion, Manuela Herzer, told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan that the appointment of Samuel Ingham III — who has represented singer Britney Spears since 2008, when she was placed under a conservatorship after exhibiting bizarre behavior — was acceptable to them. Ingham’s role would be to help protect Redstone’s interests leading up to and through the trial, given the former media mogul’s severe speech impediment.
Cowan also found that Redstone’s grandson, Tyler Korff, had the legal standing to bring a petition asking for the appointment of a guardian. Herzer’s lawyers maintained Korff lacked standing to file the request, but Cowan said Korff had a legitimate interest in knowing that his grandfather’s wishes were communicated to his attorneys.
Cowan also denied Herzer’s request that Redstone be examined by an independent medical expert, but said her lawyers could raise the issue again later if the course of the litigation warranted them doing so.
Herzer’s lawyer, Ronald Richards, said he is considering asking a state appeals court to hear Cowan’s rulings. He noted that Cowan said he did not view iPhone video footage shot by Redstone’s late film producer friend, Arnold Kopelson, at Redstone’s mansion on Jan. 28. Herzer’s lawyers maintained it was obvious from the video that Redstone has severe cognitive issues.
“I am concerned he didn’t even watch the video,” Richards said. “There is a multiplicity of legal issues.”
Kopelson died Oct. 8 at his Beverly Hills home at age 83.
Herzer maintains that Redstone’s October 2015 revision of his family trust deprived her of her claims to $50 million in cash and to Redstone’s Beverly Park mansion, which is valued at $20 million. In April, Redstone filed a petition asking that the trust amendment be validated by a judge, and trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 14.
Herzer’s lawyers maintain that Redstone lacked the mental capacity in April to make the trust amendment.
Redstone has another open case against Herzer that alleges elder abuse and seeks to recover assets he maintains she wrongfully extracted from him. The case is set for trial in February 2020, but Redstone’s lawyers are asking for a date in 2019 because of their client’s age.
Herzer has also sued Redstone’s daughter, Shari Redstone, alleging she convinced the nurses serving her father to turn him against Herzer, who was forced to move out of his home in 2015 and deprived of assets she claims belong to her.
Trial of Herzer’s suit is scheduled for December 2019.
Lawyers for the former chairman of CBS and Viacom have argued their client is not mentally incapacitated, but only physically limited because of his communication problems. His lawyers said he answers questions by writing his responses on an iPad.
In his petition, Korff maintained that Redstone “suffers from a number of health conditions, including most notably a severe speech impairment that limits his ability to communicate verbally.”
Redstone’s lawyers filed court papers stating they supported Korff’s petition.
Herzer was not present in court, but sitting in the courtroom were former District Attorney Steve Cooley, who said previously that he sees “intriguing issues” in Herzer’s case, and Gary Snyder, who said he is a cousin of Redstone.
Snyder briefly addressed the court after Cowan told the lawyers that he had received an email from him. Snyder declined to reveal the contents of the email after the hearing.
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