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Barring a settlement on the courthouse steps, there’s just one more hearing before trial begins in the closely watched battle over control of media mogul Sumner Redstone’s healthcare, and it will determine which topics are out of bounds during proceedings.
Redstone’s longtime companion, Manuela Herzer, turned to the courts last fall after being removed from his healthcare directive — and his Beverly Park Mansion. She claims the 92-year-old is a “living ghost” and he does not have the capacity to make decisions on his own and is unduly influenced by his family and others close to him. Her attorneys have gone as far as to say Redstone has been “brainwashed.”
His attorneys claim Herzer is just after the millions she was set to receive until October and, while Redstone has a severe speech impediment made worse by stress, he’s fully capable of making decisions on his own.
On Thursday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David J. Cowan will decide which arguments being made by attorneys are relevant to the main issue of whether Redstone had the capacity to remove Herzer from his directive.
Herzer’s attorneys, led by Pierce O’Donnell, are asking the court to exclude evidence regarding her alleged misconduct or bad motives.
“This case is about Redstone,” states the motions in limine filed Friday. “It should not be an attack on Herzer, and counsel should not be permitted to divert the proper focus from Redstone by attacking Herzer.”
The ex-companion’s attorneys argue that just because she has a financial interest in the outcome of the proceedings doesn’t mean she is not acting for legitimate reasons, and any trial time spent questioning Herzer’s motives is a waste of the court’s resources.
O’Donnell also wants Cowan to limit the testimony on the subject of undue influence to what Redstone knew as of Oct. 16, 2015 — the date of the directive in question.
“Put simply, what Counsel may claim Redstone learned after October 16, 2015, is wholly irrelevant because it could not have impacted his decision on that date.” states the motion.
The final request is to limit evidence of Redstone’s reasons for removing Herzer to the “‘facts’ provided in response to discovery seeking ‘all facts.’”
States the motion, “In place of facts, Counsel have proffered cryptic lawyerly responses to discovery requests that provide no guidance as to crucial matters”
The section is heavily redacted, but essentially the argument is Redstone’s attorneys shouldn’t be allowed to use any “facts or reasons” at trial that they didn’t disclose during discovery.
It remains to be seen if Cowan will find Herzer’s motivations for filing her petition relevant, but he has made it quite clear that he won’t allow his courtroom to become a circus.
While keeping Redstone’s dignity in tact has been a priority for Cowan, in a Monday hearing, he decided the court needs to hear from the mogul himself.
“As the only concern of this case is Redstone’s welfare, his appearance is of the utmost significance,” the judge wrote in a tentative decision that he adopted Monday. “As to the issues herein of Redstone’s mental capacity and whether he was unduly influenced, there can likewise be no more important evidence than what Redstone himself would state, his manner of communication and his ability to respond to questions.”
In an effort to keep stresses low and privacy protections high, Cowan put strict requirements on the testimony. Redstone’s deposition will be taken in his home, with no family members or potential trial witnesses allowed, and Herzer’s attorneys will be given only 15 minutes to question him. His attorney will be able to end the deposition at any time, and be able to depose the mogul for an additional 15 minutes. It will be filmed, but that video will not be made public.
During the hearing on Monday, Redstone’s attorney Gabrielle Vidal indicated she won’t be filing any motions in limine but will be filing an opposition to Herzer’s.
Vidal has not yet responded to a request for comment.
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