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The scorched-earth litigation strategy of Manuela Herzer, former girlfriend of Sumner Redstone, has backfired. On Tuesday, a California federal judge dismissed Herzer’s $100 million lawsuit alleging that Sumner’s daughter Shari and grandson Tyler Korff engaged in a scheme to remove her as a beneficiary of Redstone’s Trust.
In 2015, Herzer was kicked out of the 95-year-old billionaire’s Beverly Park mansion. The Trust was amended to deny Herzer a $70 million inheritance.
Herzer responded with a wrath of litigation — a lawsuit in state court against Shari and Korff that claimed interference with her expected inheritance, a probate petition that sought to invalidate changes to the trust and, finally, a federal lawsuit claiming racketeering, wiretapping and defamation.
The probate case moved most quickly and was before the same judge that rejected Herzer’s efforts two years ago to make healthcare decisions for the elder Redstone. Herzer dismissed her petition only to see Redstone bring his own. As discussed earlier this week, the parties are on the verge of a trial in probate court that will examine whether Redstone had sufficient mental capacity and intent in amending the Trust. Looking to halt the trial, Herzer argues that Redstone is alive, his Trust is revocable and she has no standing to pursue an expectancy interest in Redstone’s fortune.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip Gutierrez, presiding in the federal case against Shari and Tyler, has taken notice of those arguments.
Concluding that an expectancy interest in trust funds isn’t enough to establish injury to confer RICO standing, Gutierrez dismisses the racketeering claim. The judge also refuses to see Redstone’s elder abuse lawsuit against Herzer as frivolous, and thus, rejects Herzer’s argument of standing from the millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees incurred in defense.
Gutierrez also rejects the claims arising from allegations that Shari communicated with Sumner’s nurses, housekeepers and personal secretary and driver to elicit information about her. According to Herzer, these individuals were promised job security for information, which was used as a plan to oust Herzer from the Redstone estate.
The judge agrees with defendants that there’s no secondary liability for intercepted communications — that whatever eavesdropping occurred, there was no specific allegation that recordings were used in any concrete way or defendants directing anyone to secretly record or send intercepted conversations. Further, a defamation claim premised on allegedly false statements to Redstone about Herzer is dismissed as time-barred.
A dismissal motion is granted, though Herzer does have permission to amend her wiretapping claim to establish direct liability. The racketeering and defamation claims are dead.
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