UPDATED: Sumner Redstone is the victim of a “web of deceit” initiated by his daughter, attorneys for the mogul’s ex-girlfriend have argued in the latest filing as a judge considers dismissing Manuela Herzer’s lawsuit challenging Redstone’s mental competency.
In a response released Sunday in advance of Monday’s hearing on the motion to dismiss, Herzer’s attorneys took aim at Shari Redstone, accusing Redstone’s daughter of spying on her father and encouraging his caregivers and speech therapists to turn him against Herzer last October.
Lawyers for Redstone countered in their own legal filing that “what’s done is done.” They said the CBS and Viacom chairman emeritus has made clear his disdain for his one-time live-in, and his wish to have her out of his life should be honored.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan said Friday that he was weighing whether to dismiss Herzer’s suit after hearing videotaped testimony from the 92-year-old billionaire asserting that he no longer wants Herzer to be around him, or have a say in his health care decisions. The trial, which began Friday with Sumner Redstone’s testimony, has lifted the veil on lurid details of the elder Redstone’s final years.
After Sumner Redstone’s testimony, the judge asserted that he was leaning toward dismissing the case given the mogul’s statements regarding Herzer. Herzer’s team responded by asserting that Redstone has been under “undue influence” from the anti-Herzer camp. The filing asserts that Shari Redstone initiated a “spy network” to reinsert herself in her father’s life and also questions whether the speech therapist who is helping to interpret Redstone’s comments is biased against the plaintiffs.
“The salient question before the Court is not only what Redstone said, but also whether Redstone fully appreciates what he said, and whether he has been unduly influenced to make those statements, however strongly he may have spoken,” the filing states. “Although Redstone speaks in disparaging and vulgar terms about Herzer, whom he once called the ‘love of his life,’ the Court cannot assume that he was expressing his true wishes and beliefs, particularly when those statements were only intelligible to his speech therapist.”
Redstone’s own lawyers scoffed at that notion in their filing Sunday. “Despite his severe speech impediment, Mr. Redstone testified clearly and unequivocally on May 6, 2016,” the magnate’s lawyers said, “that he wants his daughter, and not Ms. Herzer, to act at his agent should he become unable to make his own health care decisions.”
The Herzer filing asserts that Redstone’s angry response when questioned about Herzer’s suit was in keeping with a person suffering from diminished mental capacity. The filing urges the judge to continue the trial to allow for a full hearing of the allegations. The courtroom “is the only forum which is capable of protecting the best interests of Redstone against the cabal of staff members and relatives who initially in October 2015 succeeded (and continue to succeed) in unduly influencing him to throw out Herzer and remove her from his Advance Health Care Directive four days later.”
Herzer’s team alleges that Redstone was not fully aware of what he was doing last October when Herzer was ejected from his house and removed from control of the mogul’s health care decisions. That power transferred first to Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, a longtime Redstone lieutenant, and in April to the his daughter, Shari.
The filing maintains that Shari Redstone has long had an estranged relationship with her father and that Shari has sought to defy her father’s wishes when it comes to end-of-life decisions.
Redstone’s lawyers countered that it was Herzer’s own scheming and attempts at manipulation that had angered the billionare. “It is Ms. Herzer’s own conduct that has reinforced Mr. Redstone’s negative feelings toward her, and she has no one to blame but herself,” their brief to Judge Cowan contended.
The Redstone team said it was not necessary for the judge to litigate all the ins and outs of a relationship that extended over many years. That seemed to play off a comment from Judge Cowan, who sounded a note of skepticism at the start of the trial about the notion that Redstone might have a higher burden in breaking a relationship with a companion than a husband or wife wanting to make such a change.
Redstone’s lawyers cited a previous case, upheld in the appellate courts, in which an elderly husband was not required to justify all his reasons for breaking with his wife. Such decisions, Redstone’s lawyers argued, have “an intensely personal quality and direct proof of objective reasons why one party subjectively believes the marriage is past saving is not required.”
They also pointed out that Herzer’s own expert psychiatrist acknowledged that it would be very difficult to imagine Herzer returning to oversee Redstone’s health care, given his current animosity for her. The Redstone team has previously argued that Herzer is not truly concerned about the mogul’s health, but wants to have him judged incompetent because she stands to gain a fortune — $50 million and a $20 million home — if Redstone’s previous estate plan is reinstated.
“In the interests of his privacy, dignity, legacy and family,” the lawyers concluded, “Mr. Redstone respectfully renews his request that the court dismiss the petition and allow him to live out his remaining days in peace.”
The hearing on the motion to dismiss is set for 8:30 a.m. PT on Monday.