Judge Dismisses Sumner Redstone Case

      LOS ANGELES (CN) – A state court judge on Monday dismissed a probate case challenging the competency of Sumner Redstone, ruling the media mogul made clear in a video deposition that he wanted his former girlfriend out of his life.
     In response, she filed a new $70 million lawsuit against Redstone’s daughter Shari.
     Plaintiff Manuela Herzer’s attorneys said they will appeal the probate court’s ruling and filed the civil complaint that will continue a legal battle that has caused jitters on Wall Street, captivated Hollywood and sown doubt over who controls the media mogul’s $42 billion empire.
     Redstone’s ex-girlfriend and former caretaker filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court late last year, claiming the 92-year-old majority shareholder of CBS and Viacom was mentally incapacitated when he ousted her from a Sept. 3, 2015, advance health care directive.
     But Redstone’s attorneys said the mogul, who has a severe speech impediment, is capable of understanding and making his own health care decisions.
     During the first day of trial on Friday, Superior Court Judge David Cowan suggested Herzer would have an uphill battle convincing him in the bench trial after the court was shown video testimony in which Redstone apparently made his feelings on Herzer clear.
     In a video shown privately to the judge after spectators and the press were cleared from the court, Redstone repeatedly called her a”f***ing bitch” and confirmed he had removed her from the advanced health care directive.
     In a stunning development on Friday afternoon, Redstone’s attorneys renewed an effort to throw out the case, and said they would be filing a motion to dismiss Herzer’s petition.
     Judge Cowan asked the parties to file papers on the matter over the weekend.
     In an undated and unsigned ruling circulated Monday to the press and media inside the courtroom, Cowan ruled that based on Redstone’s video deposition he was dismissing Herzer’s petition with prejudice.
     “The court has heard from the one key witness Herzer herself insisted from the outset of this case that the court hear from: Redstone. Redstone had not otherwise intended to appear at trial in view of the medical risks and difficulties involved in doing so. However, Redstone’s testimony has ultimately defeated her case. Though Herzer may have believed that Redstone would not be able to say anything , or be able to understand the questions, Redstone did both,” Cowan wrote in a tentative ruling.
     Cowan’s decision means that Herzer’s insistence that Redstone testify in the case backfired spectacularly.
     Redstone’s attorneys had consistently tried to prevent their client from testifying, arguing that to do so would violate his privacy rights.
     Though Cowan noted in his 17-page ruling that he was not making a determination on Redstone’s capacity to make health care decisions, he said the expert testimony of Dr. Stephen Read on Herzer’s behalf did not “establish that he lost capacity to change his agent.”
     Redstone’s daughter Shari Redstone was listed as a health care agent on an advance health care directive for her father dated April 4, according to court records. During the only day of the trial, Herzer’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell said that Shari developed a “ring of spies,” including Redstone’s nurses, so she could oust Herzer.
     But Cowan was not persuaded.
     “Even if Redstone and Shari have had disagreements about money or business over the years, as have many families, and even if they were estranged for periods for whatever reason, it is without controversy that the bond of love between a parent and a child is a hard one to break completely,” Cowan wrote. “Particularly when vulnerable, as it is agreed Redstone now is, it is natural that he would reach out to his daughter, particularly in the absence of a spouse.”
     Cowan made the ruling final on Monday morning after hearing a brief argument from O’Donnell who said that while he respected the court’s decision he disagreed.
     In a corridor outside the courtroom, Shari Redstone sobbed and hugged members of her legal team.
     In a statement released later on Monday, she said: “I am grateful to the court for putting an end to this long ordeal. I am so happy for my father that he can now live his life in peace, surrounded by his friends and family.”
     Herzer declined to comment. But O’Donnell told reporters outside the courthouse that when he took the deposition Redstone was “incoherent,” “not rational,” and that anyone who looked at the video would find him not competent.
     “I have to tell you, I was shaken when I left. It was very disturbing. It was also clear to me that he was coached and rehearsed,” O’Donnell said.
     In the lurid probate petition, filed in November 2015, Herzer claimed that Redstone was incapacitated when he revoked the advance health directive. She described the media mogul, who is known for his fiery temper, as a “living ghost.”
     Herzer said that Redstone no longer speaks clearly, requires around-the-clock nursing care and a tube to eat and drink. He is “obsessed with eating steak” and “demands, to the extent he can be understood, to engage in sexual activity every day,” Herzer said.
     Redstone was under the “undue influence” of his estate planning attorney Leah Bishop when a new health care directive was created on Oct. 16, 2015, Herzer said.
     O’Donnell said today that the undue influence claim will form the basis of her appeal.
     Herzer describes herself as Redstone’s “longtime friend, companion and caretaker” and says she moved into his home more than two years ago and took care of his medical needs after he ended his relationship with his girlfriend Sydney Holland.
     After Redstone threw Herzer out, he revised his estate plan to remove a bequest of $50 million and his Beverly Park mansion to Herzer, she says.
     Herzer’s new state court lawsuit seeks $70 million in damages for intentional interference with expected inheritance, violation of privacy, breach of contract and other counts.

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