UPDATED: A trial over who will control Sumner Redstone’s health care still looms, but a judge ruled Friday that the media magnate’s medical records are to remain sealed.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David J. Cowan made his ruling, while agreeing to make public some limited records, including emails written by Redstone’s nurses and a letter by his daughter, Shari, about his care.
“Redstone should not have to make public the significant medical ailments from which he is suffering related to his age in order to control his own healthcare decision,” Cowan wrote in his tentative ruling before Friday’s hearing.
The case stems from an attempt by Redstone’s long-time companion and one-time girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, to be allowed to control the medical care of the one-time CBS and Viacom chairman. Herzer claims that she was improperly forced out of the billionaire’s Beverly Park home by people around him.
In a May trial, she will seek an order from Judge Cowan renaming her as Redstone’s health care agent. Lawyers for the mogul have said that Herzer is only after his riches and that her medical care gambit is designed to show that Redstone was not mentally competent when he removed Herzer from his estate — potentially costing her $50 million and ownership of his $20 million mansion.
“We applaud the Court’s order granting Mr. Redstone’s motions to seal and its continued regard for his privacy and dignity in this proceeding,” said Gabrielle Vidal, Redstone’s attorney. “By opposing the sealing of Mr. Redstone’s private records, Ms. Herzer once again proved her utter disregard for Mr. Redstone’s wishes and best interests.”
Herzer’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, said that the facts of Redstone’s care, when they become public at trial, will show that the 92-year-old was victimized by those around him. “Then it will become apparent to all that Sumner Redstone is a tragic victim preyed upon by those in positions of trust and confidence who are supposed to protect him,” O’Donnell said in a statement. “We eagerly await trial.”
Cowan also responded to motions by Variety and by the Los Angeles Times and Hollywood Reporter to unseal records in the case. The media outlets said there was public interest in understanding Redstone’s condition and how decisions were being made on behalf of his multi-billion-dollar corporations. The judge in his ruling found that Redstone had not initiated the court action and should not have his records exposed. He said the magnate’s privacy and dignity “outweigh the interest of the press in scrutinizing judicial proceedings.”
Cowan wrote that “this case is not about how he operated a company or a decision he made in a boardroom — about which there would be a lesser expectation of privacy,” adding: “This case is about only how Redstone chooses to look after himself in the privacy of his own home. That someone has an important position as a business executive does not mean he or she thereby forfeits rights to privacy.”
Still, Cowan agreed that some of the communications by Redstone’s caretakers and by Shari Redstone can be made public, in a partial victory for the media outlets.