A Superior Court judge in Los Angeles agreed to have a mental exam performed on 92-year-old Sumner Redstone, who controls Viacom and CBS and whose competence to make decisions about health care and business is being questioned in lawsuits.
The judge, David Cowan, denied a request to have Redstone deposed.
The requests came from Redstone’s former live-in companion Manuela Herzer, who took Redstone to court after being evicted from his house and removed from the list of people who can make medical decisions for him if he is incapacitated.
Redstone’s ability to act as leader of struggling Viacom has also questioned by shareholders. An investment firm published a lengthy presentation claiming the media company would be better off without Redstone and CEO Philippe Dauman. Another shareholder filed a lawsuit claiming that Redstone should give back the money he’s received from Viacom as pay because he hasn’t been able to earn it.
On Friday the judge ordered Redstone to be examined for one hour by Herzer’s medical expert, Dr. Stephen Read, who has already testified against Redstone, but hasn’t yet had access to the billionaire. The exam is expected to take place within the next 10 days.
“Redstone having to testify at a deposition is inconsistent with what a person his age and condition should have to undergo,” the judge said in his order. “On the other hand, in order that there can be no question about the fairness or the evidentiary basis for the final decision on this petition (which may have collateral consequences beyond this case), each psychiatrist should have a similar opportunity to personally evaluate Redstone —where this case may rest in large part on their medical opinions.”
Herzer’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, was happy with the ruling.
“We are gratified that Judge Cowan struck an equitable balance that assures our client has a fair opportunity to prove that her beloved Sumner was not competent when the attorneys had him remove her as his health caregiver. Sumner asked Manuela, and she promised, to care for and protect him for the rest of his life," O'Donnell said. "Today’s victory is a major milestone in honoring her commitment.”
Redstone’s lawyers noted Herzer and her lawyers still won’t be able to question their client.
“We are gratified that the Court continues to reject Ms. Herzer's increasingly desperate and disingenuous attempts to depose Mr. Redstone,” said Gabrielle Vidal.
Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.
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