A woman claiming to be the longtime companion of Sumner Redstone has turned to powerhouse entertainment lawyers Bertram Fields and Pierce O’Donnell to challenge the media mogul’s mental capacity to make decision about his health care.
Fields and O’Donnell, both at Los Angeles-based Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger, filed court papers on Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court on behalf of Manuela Herzer, who claims that Redstone, the 92-year-old controlling shareholder of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp., is unable to speak coherently, eat and drink or walk by himself.
“One of America’s preeminent media giants has tragically lost his mental capacity to make informed, rational decisions about his health care and the persons who should act on his behalf in his waning days,” they wrote.
Redstone’s lawyers immediately fired back on Wednesday, refuting Herzer’s claims about his health.
“Ms. Herzer’s claim that she filed this lawsuit out of concern for Mr. Redstone is preposterous,” said Gabrielle Vidal, co-chairwoman of the trusts and estate group at Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles, in a prepared statement. “It is a meritless action, riddled with lies, and a despicable invasion of his privacy. It proves only that Ms. Herzer will stop at nothing to pursue her personal financial agenda.”
Herzer, calling herself Redstone’s “longtime friend, companion, and caretaker” for 16 years, wants a probate judge to declare that she—and not Viacom CEO and President Philippe Dauman—is Redstone’s true health care agent. Herzer claims she was “inexplicably thrown out of Mr. Redstone’s house” on Oct. 12 by Leah Bishop, co-chairwoman of the trusts and estates group at Loeb & Loeb in Los Angeles, and was told that Redstone created a new health care directive that removed her as his health care agent.
But Herzer questioned Redstone’s ability to make those changes on Oct. 16 given that he has become a “living ghost” since his longtime girlfriend, Sydney Holland, left him in August.
An initial hearing on the matter is set for Monday.
Both sides have brought in big guns for the court fight. Herzer’s legal team at Greenberg Glusker last year brought a similar court action on behalf of Shelly Sterling against the estate of her estranged husband, Donald Sterling, then-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers—a move that ousted him from decisions involving the basketball team’s $2 billion sale. Bishop, meanwhile, was the estate planner for Frank McCourt who testified during his divorce proceedings, which complicated his $2.15 billion sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012.
In the Redstone matter, Herzer’s lawyers filed a petition for a judge to rule that Redstone lacked the capacity to revoke a Sept. 3 advance directive in which she was his health care agent. They also filed an ex parte application on Wednesday asking for an evidentiary hearing by Dec. 10 on the matter, immediate discovery and an order forcing Redstone to submit to a medical examination by Dec. 1.
Redstone’s lawyers at Loeb & Loeb fired back with opposition papers filed on Wednesday, calling the court action “a farce” that should be dismissed.
“Let’s be blunt,” Vidal wrote. “Ms. Herzer’s baseless demands and allegations are an attempt to take discovery in service of building a record for the post-death trust contest she intends to bring, and have nothing to do with any present (let alone urgent) concern for Mr. Redstone’s protection.”
“If Ms. Herzer wants to challenge Mr. Redstone’s estate plan, the very least she could do is wait until he dies,” they added.