Sumner Redstone's Medical Records Will Be Sealed

“Redstone should not have to make public the significant medical ailments from which he is suffering related to his age in order to control his own healthcare decision," says Judge David J. Cowan.
Christopher Patey

The battle over control of media mogul Sumner Redstone's healthcare has been very public, but his medical records will remain private — for now.

L.A. Superior Court Judge David J. Cowan ruled Friday to seal medical records and parts of briefs or declarations that "unnecessarily impinge on Redstone's privacy or dignity."

"Redstone should not have to make public the significant medical ailments from which he is suffering related to his age in order to control his own healthcare decision," Cowan writes in the tentative motion, which he adopted at a Friday hearing.

The 92-year-old former chairman of Viacom and CBS is in the middle of a heated fight over his medical care. His former companion Manuela Herzer alleges Redstone is a "living ghost" and is not mentally competent to make decisions regarding himself and his companies and sued to regain control of his care. Redstone's attorneys argue she is trying to invade his privacy for financial reasons.

The mogul's attorneys in February filed several motions to seal medical records in the case to protect his privacy. Cowan granted them, in part, Friday.

The court finds Redstone did not waive his right to keep his medical records confidential. In terms of documents that are not technically medical records, Cowan finds protecting "the privacy and dignity of the patient in the context of this unique proceeding outweigh the interest of the press in scrutinizing judicial proceedings."

Cowan also weighs heavily the fact that the media mogul didn't start this legal fight and he isn't being sued for having done anything wrong. "Redstone did not initiate these proceedings and has had no choice but to defend it to keep his choice of agent," Cowan writes. "Redstone has not placed his mental health in issue. It is Herzer who has placed Redstone's mental health at issue."

The Hollywood Reporter, L.A. Times and Variety filed an opposition to the motions to seal, arguing Redstone is one of the most influential media figures in half a century and the shield of privacy is being used to deny access to information crucial to Viacom/CBS shareholders and the public interest.

Cowan recognizes that if the court were to find Redstone lacked capacity, hypothetically, it could "impact control of various companies, affect shareholder interests or alter bequests on Redstone passing" but finds those issues are well beyond this proceeding.

"This case is not about how he operated a company or a decision he made in a boardroom — about which there would be a lesser expectation of privacy," Cowan writes. "This case is about only how Redstone chooses to look after himself in the privacy of his own home. That someone has an important position as a business executive does not mean he or she thereby forfeits rights to privacy."

At the end of the day, Cowan finds Redstone "is the only person whose interests are at all affected."

Cowan finds that some documents that were redacted or conditionally sealed should be unsealed, including a declaration from Shari Redstone in support of the motion to dismiss and a handful of declarations in opposition of that motion.

Attorney for THR and L.A. Times Jean-Paul Jassy says whether someone started litigation shouldn’t affect if court documents are public and he’s pleased the court unsealed 15 documents. 

“In a situation like this where you’ve got someone who has a lot of power and a lot of influence and up until six weeks ago was the chair of two large publicly traded companies, and even now has a majority interest, it matters to a lot of people what happens in these proceedings,” Jassy says. 

Cowan intends for the trial to be open to the public. It remains to be seen if Redstone's medical documents will continue to be sealed then. "Merely because a document filed in connection with the motions at issue here was sealed does not also mean it will be sealed if it is offered at trial," Cowan writes. 

“We’re encouraged and heartened that the public is going to have an opportunity to see and understand the functioning of its courts in this process,” Jassy says. 

Herzer's attorney Pierce O'Donnell said after the hearing that he's looking forward to the trial. "I think Mr. Redstone's interests will be vindicated," he says. "The truth is going to come out on May 6."

Redstone's attorney Gabrielle Vidal issued a statement following the hearing: "We applaud the Court's order granting Mr. Redstone's motions to seal and its continued regard for his privacy and dignity in this proceeding. By opposing the sealing of Mr. Redstone's private records, Ms. Herzer once again proved her utter disregard for Mr. Redstone's wishes and best interests."

Depositions have been scheduled for Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and Shari Redstone, Sumner's daughter. Dauman and Shari will be deposed April 5 and 6, respectively, according to O'Donnell. Herzer's attorneys also plan to depose Redstone's longtime attorney David Andelman, along with Redstone's household staff, driver and other doctors.

This story has been updated to include responses from attorneys involved in the case.