News Column

Sterling Incompetency Conclusion Questioned

July 2, 2014

Dakota Smith, Daily News

Shelly and Donald Sterling (Associated Press)
Shelly and Donald Sterling (Associated Press)

July 02--One of the doctors who declared Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling mentally incompetent socialized with the billionaire at a hotel restaurant after the exam, raising questions about the physician's conclusions, Sterling's attorney said Tuesday.

Sterling was examined May 19 in his Beverly Hills home by Dr. Meril Platzer, a Woodland Hills-based doctor specializing in Alzheimer's disease. Later that night, Platzer drank alongside Sterling at a table at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Sterling attorney Bobby Samini said.

With Sterling fighting the $2 billion sale of the Clippers, Sterling's legal team argues that Shelly Sterling failed to properly follow the rules in removing her husband as a trustee of the entity that owns the team. She convinced Donald Sterling to take a mental health exam but didn't explain why she wanted him to do so, his attorney argue.

Nor did Platzer provide a proper analysis, Samini suggested in court documents.

"It is unclear (at) which point the purported medical examination ceased," Samini wrote, "and at which point a social interaction began, with the consumption of alcoholic beverages taking place."

With the trial over the $2 billion sale of the Clippers looming, Donald Sterling's legal team is seeking to cast doubt on his wife's actions and the experts who declared him incompetent.

The trial, set to begin Monday, won't focus on Donald Sterling's mental state, but a judge will decide whether Shelly Sterling properly followed the rules of the trust in removing him as a trustee after the doctor's examinations. By removing Donald Sterling as a trustee, Shelly Sterling was able to fast-track a pending sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Donald Sterling is fighting that sale.

Platzer was one of three doctors consulted by Shelly Sterling. Platzer concluded that Donald Sterling "is at risk of making potentially serious errors of judgment" and shows signs of "cognitive impairment," court documents show.

On the date of her exam, Platzer met with Donald Sterling in the afternoon, court documents state. Afterward, Donald Sterling and Samini left his home, and travelled to Donald Sterling's office, Samini said.

Samini and Donald Sterling then went to the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, where the pair encountered Platzer and Shelly Sterling.

It's unclear if the meeting had been arranged before or was accidental, and Samini didn't return a follow-up call.

Regardless, everyone gathered together at the Polo Lounge. Samimi said that everyone was drinking alcohol, including Platzer. Donald Sterling ordered lamb, he said, and also had a drink.

Over the course of about an hour and half, Platzer dominated the conversation, Samini said. Platzer went on for "about an hour and half, telling her life story, and how her husband left her," Samini said.

Donald Sterling paid for the check at the end of the meal, Samini said.

"I watched him give his credit card," Samini said.

The attorney questioned whether it was "acceptable" for a physician to "evaluate someone and immediately thereafter go and have drinks with him." He also questioned whether Platzer was still assessing Donald Sterling while she was drinking at the Polo Lounge.

A woman who answered the phone at Platzer's Woodland Hills office said the doctor wasn't returning reporters' calls.

The release of Donald Sterling's mental evaluations have angered the real estate magnate and his lawyers, who contend his privacy was breached and he was tricked into submitting to the exams.

Shelly Sterling's attorneys contend that Donald Sterling consented to the exams and his attorneys were in the next room.

Court documents detail Donald Sterling's anger at Platzer, whom he called weeks after the Polo Lounge gathering. He was incensed that she declared him unfit to run the trust, court documents show.

"What a horrible woman you are," he said in a voicemail message for Platzer that was submitted to the court. "All you did was go to the Beverly Hills Hotel and drink liquor. I've got two declarations from people in my house that all you did was cry and drink and complain about your life and then you lie about me that I'm incompetent. How dare you?"

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(c)2014 the Daily News (Los Angeles)

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Original headline: Doctor's behavior questioned in Donald Sterling court case


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