2:28pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Judge Told Shari Redstone's Influence in Philippe Dauman Removal Doesn't Matter
Sumner Redstone's attorneys have formally gone forward with a motion aimed at disposing of a lawsuit brought by Philippe Dauman and George Abrams over their removal from the Sumner Redstone National Amusements Trust.
In Massachusetts probate court, Dauman seeks restoration of his role as a trustee on the entity that has voting control over both Viacom and CBS and demands the type of expedited treatment that would allow for a physical examination of the 93-year-old Redstone. The lawsuit asserts that Shari Redstone has unduly influenced her father in an alleged effort to assume complete control of his businesses.
As Judge George Phelan gets set to rule as soon as June 30, Sumner Redstone is now demanding dismissal and that any dispute occur in California where he currently resides and administers the National Amusements Trust.
In a declaration submitted on Monday, Redstone also responds to the contention that he was unduly influenced by Shari to remove Dauman and Abrams. "That is offensive and untrue," states the declaration.
His attorneys also are arguing that a claim of undue influence is basically irrelevant to how the Trust is administered.
According to a memo in support of dismissal, Redstone's authority is suspended only if he is deemed "mentally incapacitated," which under the Trust, requires either a court ruling or an instrument signed by three doctors. Redstone's lawyers say that Dauman and Abrams haven't alleged "either of these exclusive conditions has occurred."
Redstone's lawyers also tell the judge that the Trust provides no recourse for Dauman and Abrams to challenge their removal on grounds of undue influence, and even if otherwise, "that would render the removal actions voidable by Sumner during his lifetime, not void. Because Sumner does not seek to avoid Plaintiffs' removals, those removals remain valid and enforceable without regard to Plaintiffs' bald assertions of undue influence."
The dismissal motion further argues that even if the judge is looking beyond the Trust to examine common law on the subject of undue influence, the actions to remove Dauman and Abrams is "decidedly administrative, not dispositive, in character."
A spokesperson for the plaintiffs responds, "The motions to dismiss of Shari Redstone and the lawyers hired for Sumner represent continued efforts to avoid a fair inquiry into Sumner’s well-being and how various documents came to be. The facts will only come out through discovery on an expedited basis. We are urging the court to allow the inquiry to proceed as quickly as possible.”
The Redstone camp's actions towards Dauman — particularly in respect to his removal from Viacom's board — also are being challenged in Delaware Chancery Court, which focuses more on governance issues rather than disposition of Redstone's trust. A hearing in that case is scheduled for Wednesday.