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Judge Nixes Deposition for Sumner Redstone in Ex-Girlfriend’s Lawsuit

Sumner Redstone
Greg Allen/REX/Shutterstock

Sumner Redstone will not have to submit to a deposition as part of a lawsuit brought by his former girlfriend, whose litigation has raised questions about the media mogul’s competency and ability to govern two media companies.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied the motion after Redstone’s attorneys said that they would not call him to testify, after previously asserting that Redstone would be on their witness list.

Robert Klieger, who represents Redstone, said the Redstone would not be able to provide verbal testimony as he has a “very, very severe speech impediment.”

“We cannot put him through that, particularly in an adversarial proceeding,” he said. Instead, he raised the prospect of written testimony, but Superior Court Judge David Cowan said he would not allow him “to testify by declaration.” After that, Redstone’s attorneys did an about-face on calling him as a witness.

On Wednesday, attorneys for Manuela Herzer filed a petition in Superior Court of the State of California seeking to depose Redstone, who is the biggest shareholder in Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp.

Herzer, once romantically involved with the executive, was ousted from Redstone’s household last year.

Herzer’s lawsuit challenged that removal as well as Redstone’s mental competency. The litigation was on the verge of being settled last week, but for undisclosed reasons is now set to continue.

Previous motions to depose Redstone have been denied. But Herzer’s attorneys argued that circumstances have changed, as counsel “purporting to represent Redstone are now offering him as a trial witness.” Klieger told Cowan that what they had done is reserve the right to call him to testify. But upon questions from Cowan, Klieger said they would not call Redstone.

Pierce O’Donnell of Greenberg Glusker, representing Herzer, said after the brief hearing that although their motion was denied, it was significant that Redstone’s attorneys told the court that they would not call him as a witness.

“The state of play today was that Sumner Redstone will not be testifying. That dooms their case,” he said, arguing that it proves incompetency.

In court filings, Herzer’s attorneys also contend that recently discovered evidence shows Redstone’s counsel had concerns over his capacity as far back as April 2015.

O’Donnell said that he was going to New York next week to take a deposition from Redstone’s daughter, Shari, on Tuesday. A deposition from Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman is scheduled for April 29, he said.

In a statement, Sumner Redstone attorney Gabrielle Vidal of Loeb & Loeb again questioned Herzer’s motive for pursuing the litigation.

“We are deeply gratified that the court continues to protect Mr. Redstone’s privacy and dignity,” Vidal said. “Ms. Herzer’s eagerness to subject a 92-year-old man with a severe speech impairment to these intrusive proceedings is offensive. We also find it telling that while Ms. Herzer claims to be acting for Mr. Redstone’s benefit, she refers to him in Court as her ‘opponent.’ ”