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The trial was cut short, but the legal fight over media mogul Sumner Redstone’s healthcare is far from over.
Judge David J. Cowan on Monday dismissed with prejudice a petition over Sumner Redstone’s competency to amend a healthcare directive, after just one full day of a trial that was expected to take more than a week.
In dismissing the petition, the court dealt a blow to Manuela Herzer, Redstone’s former companion who was thrown out of his home in October. After Redstone’s deposition was played to the judge on Friday, Cowan admitted that it was strong evidence of Redstone’s wishes and indicated he might call a halt to the trial.
“Though indisputably the Court relied on the interpreter to understand what Redstone said, the Court could still see him enunciating words that seemed consistent with what the interpreter stated,” Cowan wrote in a tentative ruling which he adopted Monday. “The Court was able to see the strong conviction he had about what he said. He seemed very alert. He was composed and did not appear angry.”
Attorneys for Redstone argued in court papers over the weekend there is no “compelling evidence that Mr. Redstone did not understand what he was doing when he removed Ms. Herzer from his advanced health care directive or that the wishes he expressed last week were the product of undue influence.”
Cowan agreed. While Redstone needed help in saying it, the judge found it’s clear the 92-year-old mogul knows what he wants and it doesn’t involve Herzer.
“Redstone made crystal clear at his deposition that the reason he did not want Herzer as his agent was that he had kicked her out of his home,” Cowan wrote. “He did not trust her because he believed she had lied to him and stolen money from him. He also recalled what she had lied to him about. The Court can think of no more rational reason to change one’s agent.”
The mogul’s daughter Shari Redstone issued a statement following the decision: “I am grateful to the court for putting an end to this long ordeal. I am so happy for my father that he can now live his life in peace, surrounded by his friends and family.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like that peace is coming anytime soon.
Herzer’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell didn’t put up much of a fight in the courtroom — but in a press conference outside he announced a massive counter-attack. Herzer on Monday filed a $100 million lawsuit against Shari, and others in the mogul’s inner circle.
Redstone’s attorneys are expected to file a suit of their own soon, an elder abuse claim against Herzer and the mogul’s ex-girlfriend Sydney Holland, which Robert Klieger alluded to in a statement Monday.
“Ms. Herzer bet wrong when she assumed that Mr. Redstone’s difficulty communicating would result in her reinstatement in his life and fortune,” Klieger said. “Mr. Redstone is looking forward to liberating the $150m in ‘gifts’ to Ms. Herzer and her friend.”
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