Sumner Redstone Wins Reprieve in Healthcare Legal Battle

A judge sees no urgency for the media mogul to be questioned by lawyers

A Los Angeles judge said Monday that Sumner Redstone won’t be questioned immediately over an intermediary proceeding in a suit filed by the 92-year-old media mogul’s former girlfriend seeking to take control of his health decisions.

The suit has spiraled beyond its original scope, as claims about Redstone  — Viacom and CBS’s controlling shareholder and executive chairman — have sparked questions from investors in those companies. Claims that Redstone’s mental competency have deteriorated prompted one large Viacom investor, Mario Gabelli, to call on the company for clarity earlier this month.

The case was triggered by Redstone’s former girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, who’s seeking to be reinstated as the steward of his care should he become incapacitated. The suit, and her claims that Redstone is unable to follow conversations and sign his own name, have been rejected by Redstone’s lawyers, who characterize them as attempts to insinuate herself in his estate after she was removed in October.

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman was named Redstone’s healthcare agent then, and he has repeatedly confirmed that Redstone remains in charge of his own decisions.

A lawyer for Redstone, Gabrielle Vidal of the firm Loeb & Loeb, said in a statement Monday that his legal team is pleased that the court rejected Herzer’s request. “Today’s ruling ensures that Mr. Redstone will be left in peace, while the court hears directly from his doctors that this proceeding is unnecessary,” she said. 

“Herzer claims to want to protect Mr. Redstone when her every action demonstrates her disregard for his welfare,” she added.

Herzer’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell said her legal team was “thrilled” with the decision that would let them question the three other people it asked to depose: Dauman, geriatric psychiatrist James Spar and physician Richard Gold. O’Donnell said Dauman would be deposed about his account of complex business conversations conducted with Redstone, which O’Donnell claimed to be “a fiction.”

O’Donnell also said Herzer is concerned that her absence is jeopardizing Redstone’s health and safety.

A week earlier, Judge David Cowan scheduled Monday’s hearing to decide the urgency — or lack thereof — in examining Redstone and taking his deposition, after Herzer’s lawyers asked to hasten the suit’s progress. Another judge in November pushed a hearing on the merits of the suit itself to Jan. 27. That hearing over the question to dismiss has now been scheduled for Feb. 28.