Judge Tosses Sumner Redstone Competence Lawsuit


A trial over Sumner Redstone's mental competence abruptly ended on Monday when a California judge threw out a lawsuit brought by the 92-year-old media mogul's former girlfriend, Manuela Herzer, saying he did have the mental competence to remove her as his health care agent last year.

"There is no good cause for further judicial involvement where the court has now heard directly from Redstone that he has lost trust in Herzer, does not want her in his life and instead wants his daughter Shari to look after him if necessary," the judge wrote in his ruling.

Herzer contended that Redstone, the controlling shareholder of Viacom Inc and CBS Corp, was not mentally competent when he removed her as his designated healthcare agent last October.

A trial to decide the matter started on Friday and had been set to run through May 16.

After the ruling was handed out in court, Shari Redstone hugged her lawyer. Sumner Redstone was not present in court.

Judge David Cowan wrote in his ruling that Herzer's claims that Redstone could not understand or communicate were disproved by testimony from Redstone himself, in a deposition that was presented to the court on Friday.

"Redstone's testimony has ultimately defeated her case. Though Herzer may have believed that Redstone would not be able to say anything, or be able to understand the questions, Redstone did both."

The trial was being closely watched by shareholders of Viacom and CBS. Redstone earlier this year stepped down as executive chairman of both companies, assuaging some investor questions about his influence.

But some concerns have remained about his control of roughly 80 percent of the voting shares in both companies, held through his National Amusements movie theater company.

If Herzer, 52, had proved her case, it could have triggered a chain of events that would result in the transfer of Redstone's controlling stake in both media companies to a seven-person trust that includes Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and Redstone's daughter Shari.

The transfer of his shares to the trust is scheduled to take place upon his death unless he is found to be incompetent to manage them prior to that.

Viacom shares were down 1.8 percent. (Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Writing by Bill Rigby; Editing by Sue Horton and Nick Zieminski)