Judge Won't Order Sumner Redstone Deposition

Amid settlement talks, former companion Manuela Herzer's attorneys argued if Redstone's legal team intends to use him as a witness during the May trial then they should have a chance to depose the mogul first.
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

Media mogul Sumner Redstone won't be deposed as part of the legal battle over control of his healthcare, a California judge ruled in a Thursday afternoon hearing. 

Judge David J. Cowan waited to decide on the issue until the sides laid out specifically how Redstone would be testifying at trial.

Redstone’s attorney Robert Klieger said his intention is the mogul would not provide “verbal testimony” but rather written testimony “of some sort.”

“Mr. Redstone has a very, very severe speech impediment,” said Klieger, and under stressful situations it becomes more pronounced.

Cowan indicated he won’t let Redstone testify by way of declaration because of concerns about hearsay, but left the issue open for further discussion.

Redstone's ex-companion Manuela Herzer's attorney Pierce O’Donnell said Redstone’s ability to communicate intelligibly is part of the issue at hand and he wants the court to see Redstone, but not to the extent it would create a public spectacle.

O'Donnell indicated he would not call Redstone as a witness at trial as long as Klieger's camp agreed not to call him — to which they conceded.

On Wednesday, attorneys for Herzer filed an ex parte application to depose the 92-year-old mogul, claiming his own attorneys intend to put him on the stand during trial and they deserve a chance to question him as well. 

"In this case, Sumner M. Redstone ('Redstone') is more than just the nominal 'opponent' of Petitioner’s Petition, and more than just a witness," states the request. "Redstone, his condition, and his testimony are 'Exhibit A' in this trial."

Herzer sued last fall after she was kicked out of Redstone's Beverly Park mansion in an attempt to regain control over his healthcare. She alleges Redstone is not mentally competent to make decisions regarding himself and his companies.

Redstone's attorneys have painted the litigation as an unnecessary invasion of privacy and claimed Herzer is only concerned about the millions she was set to receive before this all happened.

But in February, Cowan made it clear he does think further examination of the situation is necessary when he declined to dismiss the case.

"In summary, if the motion [to dismiss] is correct, Herzer has no business looking after Redstone," he wrote in his decision. "If the motion is wrong, Redstone will be free of the alleged undue influence of his daughter. Necessarily, the Court cannot determine the validity of these competing claims of motive without seeing the witnesses and hearing testimony."

This move to depose Redstone came just a day after O'Donnell said the parties hit a "snag" in settlement discussions. 

After the hearing, O'Donnell said he didn't want to subject Redstone to a media frenzy but he also didn't want to be disadvantaged at trial if Redstone's attorneys had used his testimony.

"This is a good thing for Mr. Redstone," said O'Donnell. "When he doesn't appear, it dooms their case."

While the mogul himself won't be deposed, Herzer's camp will depose his daughter Shari on April 19 and has rescheduled a deposition of Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, who is currently in control of Redstone's care, for April 29.

Redstone's attorney Gabrielle Vidal issued a statement Thursday afternoon.

“We are deeply gratified that the Court continues to protect Mr. Redstone’s privacy and dignity," Vidal said. "Ms. Herzer’s eagerness to subject a 92-year old man with a severe speech impairment to these intrusive proceedings is offensive. We also find it telling that while Ms. Herzer claims to be acting for Mr. Redstone’s benefit, she refers to him in Court as her ‘opponent’.”

April 13, 3:30 p.m. Updated with a comment from Redstone's attorney.