Sumner Redstone won his fight to be rid of a former girlfriend as a Los Angeles probate judge threw out her lawsuit alleging the 92-year-old media billionaire was mentally incompetent.
The ruling ends the case on the second day of a trial but may not avoid a further public airing of the infighting among the Redstone family, some of his former girlfriends, and the nurses who take care of the former Viacom and CBS chairman. Within minutes of Monday's ruling, Mr. Redstone's former lover sued Mr. Redstone's daughter Shari, her two sons and members of his household staff over claims they interfered with her expected inheritance.
The trial opened Friday with Mr. Redstone's videotaped testimony in which he used expletives to describe his ex-girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, and said he wanted her out of his life. While the recording confirmed Mr. Redstone was in frail health and required help speaking, his wish for Ms. Herzer to have no role in his healthcare decisions was clear.
"Redstone's testimony has ultimately defeated her case," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan said Monday in his ruling. "Though Herzer may have believed that Redstone would not be able to say anything, or be able to understand the questions, he did both."
Judge Cowan said there were no legal grounds for him "not to follow his stated wishes."
Ms. Herzer made her next step in the fight clear with her new lawsuit in Los Angeles state court. Sumner Redstone cut Ms. Herzer out of his will last year when he also removed her as his health-care agent, the person to make decisions for him when he is no longer able. Ms. Herzer seeks at least $70 million in her lawsuit.
The abrupt end of the trial lessens the chance that trustees of Mr. Redstone's estate will step in for the time being. He owns majority voting rights through National Amusements and were he declared incompetent by the judge, that could have set in motion a chain of events that would shift control of that company to seven trustees, among them Shari Redstone and Viacom Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman.
"Ms. Herzer bet wrong when she assumed that Mr. Redstone's difficulty communicating would result in her reinstatement in his life and fortune," Robert N. Klieger, one of Mr. Redstone's lawyers, said in a statement.
Mr. Redstone will seek to recover money that he lavished on Ms. Herzer and another ex-girlfriend. Klieger said. "Mr. Redstone is looking forward to liberating the $150 million in 'gifts' to Ms. Herzer and her friend," he said.
Pierce O'Donnell, Herzer's lawyer, said he will appeal Monday's decision.
Ms. Herzer filed a petition in November to have Mr. Redstone declared incompetent and have her reinstated as his health-care proxy. Mr. Redstone's lawyers accused her of being more concerned about being removed from his will, which would have left her $50 million and his Los Angeles mansion in the Beverly Park neighborhood valued at $20 million.
Ms. Herzer, who describes herself as Mr. Redstone's longtime friend, companion and caretaker, had lived with him since April 2013, together with then-girlfriend Sydney Holland. Ms. Herzer dated Mr. Redstone from 1999 to 2001, according to her petition. Mr. Redstone's mental health declined rapidly after he broke off with Ms. Holland in August, according to Ms. Herzer.
Trial witnesses would have included Mr. Dauman, who was named Redstone's health-care agent in October, and Shari Redstone, with whom the media mogul has had a rocky relationship. This year, she replaced Mr. Dauman as her father's health-care agent.
Ms. Herzer claimed Mr. Redstone was being manipulated by the people around him when he kicked her out and that he had become a prisoner in his own home. She said Mr. Redstone had become a "living ghost."
Shari Redstone countered that her father's health has improved since Ms. Herzer was out of his life. Keryn Redstone, the daughter of Redstone's estranged son Brent, joined in the case to support Ms. Herzer, arguing that the "tempestuous and difficult" relationship between her grandfather and her aunt necessitated that he be put under court protection.
"I am grateful to the court for putting an end to this long ordeal," Shari Redstone said in a statement. "I am so happy for my father that he can now live his life in peace, surrounded by his friends and family."
-- Bloomberg News