LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The battle over the fortune of ailing media mogul Sumner Redstone shifted to a new front Monday after a judge threw out the case over his medical care and both sides vowed to hit each other with new lawsuits.
The 92-year-old who controls CBS Corp. and Viacom Inc. clearly stated his intentions in videotaped testimony last week, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David J. Cowan ruled. Redstone said in a profanity-laced deposition that he wanted his daughter, Shari, to make medical decisions for him if he is incapacitated and that he no longer wanted former girlfriend Manuela Herzer in his life.
Herzer filed a petition last year contending that Redstone lacked the mental capacity to expel her from his home and could no longer make informed decisions. She said he was manipulated by his nursing staff and Shari Redstone.
Cowan didn’t rule on Redstone’s mental capacity or whether he suffered undue influence. He simply said the court didn’t need to get involved once Redstone made his intentions clear.
The businessman has a serious speech impediment, relies on a feeding tube and requires 24-hour care, but his doctor has not declared him incapacitated.
Herzer’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, told reporters outside court that his client had filed a new suit for at least $70 million — this time against Shari Redstone for interfering with Herzer’s expected inheritance and invasion of privacy. She alleges the daughter had set up a “spy network” using her father’s nurses to help her dislodge Herzer from Sumner Redstone’s life.
The lawsuit included emails purported to be from one of Redstone’s nurses, Joseph Octaviano, both to Shari Redstone and her son, Tyler Korff, describing daily care and the comings and goings of Herzer and ex-girlfriend Sydney Holland. One email describes a meeting between Holland’s lawyers and Redstone that Octaviano writes was “secretly taped” by a nurse.
“It was an orchestrated, devious campaign to take over her father and his empire,” O’Donnell said.
Shari Redstone said a statement Monday that she was grateful the court ended case. She also responded to the new lawsuit, calling it “total fiction” and a “baseless attack against the Redstone family.”
Sumner Redstone’s legal team, which left the courtroom without speaking to reporters, said in a statement that it would now sue to reclaim $150 million Redstone gave Herzer and Holland.
“Ms. Herzer bet wrong when she assumed that Mr. Redstone’s difficulty communicating would result in her reinstatement in his life and fortune,” said his lawyer, Robert N. Klieger.
Redstone’s attorneys sought to dismiss the case during the first day of a competency trial that began Friday, calling it an unnecessary public spectacle that would “compromise his dignity and privacy.”
Herzer’s lawyers had argued that the judge should hear further testimony to keep Sumner Redstone’s best interests in mind and consider whether his testimony — in which he called Herzer an expletive and said he no longer loved her — had been coached.
Redstone’s attorneys noted that Herzer’s medical expert, Dr. Stephen Read, acknowledged that Redstone understood what he was doing when he threw Herzer out of his life in October. Read also testified that he believed Redstone had a serious case of dementia.
The judge said Friday that Redstone’s video testimony, which was recorded Thursday at his home, was compelling. Redstone had difficulty speaking, required a speech therapist acting as an interpreter and sometimes pointed to letters on a letter board. He used an expletive to refer to Herzer four times in the 18-minute session. When asked if he once loved her, he replied, “Yes.” Asked if he still did, he replied, “No.” The video was sealed but a transcript was provided.
AP Entertainment Writer Anthony McCartney contributed to this report.