The three doctors who will examine Tom Benson as part of a lawsuit brought against him by his estranged relatives were selected in time to meet a deadline Wednesday. But the judge presiding over the case has ordered that the physicians’ names and other details regarding the tests they will perform on the owner of the Saints and the Pelicans all be kept confidential, an Orleans Parish Civil District Court spokesman said.
Each side in the dispute pitting Benson against his daughter, Renee, and her children chose a doctor, court Public Information Officer Walt Pierce said. Those doctors then picked a third physician, and they all will subsequently examine Benson before giving their findings in a report.
Pierce said Judge Kern Reese decided to keep the details under seal out of concern for Benson’s privacy.
Reese has said he wants a report from the doctors by March 13, but that could change based on when the evaluations actually happen.
Benson’s lead New Orleans attorney, Phillip Wittmann, on Wednesday declined to discuss even in general terms either the doctors or the examination, citing Reese’s instructions.
Randy Smith — a lawyer for Renee Benson, her daughter Rita LeBlanc and her son Ryan LeBlanc — could not be reached.
Amid a family feud that became public after Benson announced he wanted to cut Renee, Rita and Ryan from future dealings with his billion-dollar business empire, Benson resisted the idea of a medical evaluation, suggesting he instead meet with the judge in private to settle any questions about whether he was fit enough to make his own business decisions.
But Reese said earlier this month that Benson should undergo a mental evaluation before the judge rules on whether to let the spurned relatives’ lawsuit proceed.
Reese did reject a specific evaluation called for by geriatric psychiatrist Ted Bloch III, who had been proposed by Benson’s estranged relatives for the hearing. The judge said that exam would be too invasive; it could have involved blood samples and an MRI, among other steps.
Reese instead ordered that Benson undergo a less specialized exam typically used in these types of cases.
In justifying the decision to name his third wife, Gayle, as the person who would inherit his assets upon his death, the twice-widowed Benson has said that he lost faith in the professional competence of his former heirs. And he has complained that Renee, Rita and Ryan treated Gayle poorly in the years since Benson married her in 2004.
In their lawsuit, Renee, Ryan and Rita argue that the 87-year-old Benson has been manipulated by interlopers into switching things up as his mental and physical health decline.
Separately, in Texas, Tom Benson is pushing for an expedited appeal of a judge’s Feb. 9 ruling that effectively ousted him as steward of a trust that had been set up for Renee’s benefit.
The trust in question includes shares in Bensco Inc., which owns several car dealerships, a 97 percent interest in Lone Star Capital Bank, about $5 million in cash, and real estate in Louisiana and Texas. It was created by Renee’s mother, Shirley Benson, who died in 1980.