The testimony of the independent medical practitioner who will test the soundness of Sumner Redstone’s mental health will be key factor in the trial.
In a significant development a Delaware judge has ruled that Sumner Redstone’s lawyers will have to substantiate and justify the act of removing five directors from Viacom’s board.
The judge also wanted to get a better picture of Sumner Redstone’s mental capacity.
Judge Andre Bouchard has set the trial date to October 17.
Earlier this June, Sumner Redstone through National Amusements Inc, Viacom’s holding company, had ousted 5 Viacom directors including its CEO, Philippe Dauman.
This development is the latest in the wrangling for control for the mogul’s $40 billion media empire midst questions over whether Redstone has a sound enough mind to make his own decisions and whether he is making his own decisions.
In another significant step, the judge has additionally said, he expects the parties to discuss the possible role of an independent medical examiner while cautioning both parties that they were dealing essentially with “issues of human dignity.”
“My focus will be whether a 90-year-old man in a rapidly declining state of health had the mental health and capacity to make the decisions attributed to him,” said Bouchard.
He went on to add, that discovery could begin immediately and expects Redstone’s medical records to be made available to Salerno.
Additionally, he also said he expects both parties to coordinate with a similar case in Massachusetts which involves the governance of National Amusements and Redstone’s competence. The case is also scheduled to go to trial in October. This particular case revolves around the fact whether Redstone knew what he was doing in May when he removed Dauman and the other five Viacom members from the seven member trust board.
The trust, officially called the Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Inc. Trust, owns around 80% of National Amusements.
“We look forward to revealing the truth as we prepare for trial in both Massachusetts and Delaware in October,” said Viacom in a statement after the ruling.
“Today’s ruling does not constitute a judgement on the merits of this case. National Amusements exercised its indisputable rights as Viacom’s majority shareholder to make changes to Viacom’s board,” said a spokeswoman for National Amusements in a statement.
In their lawsuit, following their removal from the board, Dauman and Abrams have alleged that Redstone suffers from dementia, depression, a loss of memory, impaired cognition, apathy and a slowness of mental processing. He has been manipulated by his daughter, Shari Redstone.
However, as per court filings, Sumner Redstone has denied the last allegation.