Media mogul Sumner Redstone will not take the stand in a trial that will determine whether or not he had capacity last fall to change who was in control of his health care — but an attorney for the 92-year-old’s former companion will be allowed to depose him in his home.
Following a tentative ruling, Judge David J. Cowan in a hearing Monday ruled that Manuela Herzer’s attorney could have 15 minutes to depose Redstone in his home, provided that only one attorney for each side is present and the videotape of the testimony is not made publicly available.
Cowan indicated no family members, or any person expected to testify in proceedings, will be present during the deposition, and Redstone’s speech therapist should be present and can act as an interpreter if necessary. Redstone’s attorney can pull the plug on the deposition “should he or she believe there is at that time any risk to Redstone’s health going forward” and may have an additional 15 minutes to question him.
“Nobody deserves to have a career tarnished by having been taken to a courthouse and made a public spectacle of when he would not allow that to happen had he the strength himself to stop it,” Cowan writes. “Here, this ‘overriding interest’ outweighs any interest of the public in seeing Redstone in a weakened state. The public will still know what he was asked, what he said in response and in turn the judicial process remains subject to scrutiny through the deposition transcript.”
A transcript of the testimony will be made available after the court sees it at trial.
Cowan ruled last week the trial will be public, despite privacy concerns brought by Redstone’s attorneys.
From the start, Cowan has acknowledged that Redstone, despite being the subject of this legal fight, isn’t the one who brought the action and the judge has repeatedly emphasized his desire to not harm the mogul’s dignity.
While some of the testimony will be uncomfortable, Cowan has warned attorneys that he won’t be happy if it crosses into unnecessarily invasive territory and he won’t be shy about expressing that during trial.
We’re closing in on the culmination of a legal fight that began in October, when Redstone’s longtime companion Herzer sued after she was escorted out of his mansion and her control over his health care was revoked. Herzer claims Redstone is unduly influenced by those around him and doesn’t have the capacity to make decisions about his health or his business.
Redstone’s attorneys have alleged Herzer’s concerns are nothing more than a financially motivated invasion of privacy.
After the hearing, attorneys for both sides issued statements lauding Cowan’s action in protecting the mogul’s interests.
“We appreciate the Court’s continued protection of Mr. Redstone’s privacy and dignity,” said Redstone’s attorney Gabrielle Vidal.
“Judge Cowan made a Solomonic judgment assuring that he is able to hear from Redstone while at the same time respecting his dignity, privacy and health,” said Herzer’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell.
Short of a settlement on the courthouse steps, the trial is set to begin Friday morning.
May 2, 3:50 p.m. Updated with statements from attorneys.