A sprawling, $15 million Montecito estate is at the heart of a bitter lawsuit pitting pop star Katy Perry against Texas multimillionaire Carl Westcott. The mansion has languished, largely vacant for the last two years — just a few doors down from Oprah Winfrey — waiting for a trial now unfolding in a tiny Los Angeles courtroom.
On one side is Perry’s manager, Bernie Gudvi, who claims the Grammy-winning singer purchased the nine-bedroom luxury property from Westcott in July 2020 after Westcott voluntarily hired a real estate broker to sell the house and personally oversaw a bidding war between Perry and Maria Shriver, the famed journalist, former First Lady of California, and member of the Kennedy dynasty.
Westcott’s camp, meanwhile, claims the founder of 1-800-Flowers, who also happens to be the father-in-law of Real Housewives of Dallas cast member Kameron Westcott, was “incapacitated” when he signed a sale agreement with Perry on July 15, 2020, so the deal isn’t valid. (Both sides filed dueling lawsuits over the property in August 2020, which were consolidated into the current case.)
According to Westcott, 84, his advanced age, alleged cognitive impairment tied to a diagnosis of Huntington’s disease, and the heavy pain medication he was taking following a back surgery on July 10, 2020, gave him sufficient legal grounds to reach out to his real estate broker, Cristal Clarke, on July 20, 2020, and say he wished to void the deal.
In deposition testimony, Clarke said Westcott initially told her he wanted to back out of the deal because he was worried about short-term capital gains taxes. He also said his live-in girlfriend at the time had grown fond of the home he purchased for $11,250,000 two months earlier, on May 29, 2020, and didn’t want to move, Clarke said.
Westcott, who now lives in a medical facility in Texas, is not attending the trial. His son Court Westcott and wife Kameron were in the courtroom Tuesday as Westcott’s star witness, Dr. Gary Small, faced cross-examination.
Dr. Small, a board-certified psychiatrist, testified that after he reviewed the case details and Westcott’s medical records, it was “clear” to him that Westcott “wasn’t competent” when he signed the seller’s acceptance of Perry’s offer on July 15, 2020, subject to a counteroffer. The doctor testified that Westcott was suffering from cognitive impairment due to Huntington’s disease, dementia, post-operative delirium, and “polypharmacy” — meaning the use of multiple drugs.
Gudvi’s lead lawyer Eric Rowen spent hours attacking Dr. Small’s opinion and the fact the psychiatrist wasn’t one of Westcott’s treating physicians and only recently joined the case.
Rowen seemed to land a blow when he confronted Dr. Small with medical notes from Dr. Richard Dewey, a Dallas-based neurologist who examined Westcott on July 8, 2020, just a week before the sale to Perry, and found that Westcott was in sufficient shape for his back surgery.
The lawyer said that when Dr. Small wrote in his initial report that Westcott lacked capacity between July 8 and July 19, 2020, he essentially “accused Dr. Dewey of malpractice by allowing Westcott to consent to surgery.”
“You’re not aware of any treating physician that believed Mr. Westcott was affected by cognitive impairment in his decision making in July 2020, correct?” Rowen asked.
“That’s correct, but they weren’t asked those questions specifically,” Dr. Small said.
“You cannot identify any document in which a medical professional in 2020 stated that Mr. Westcott did not or could not understand the consequences of his actions, correct?” Rowen pressed.
“Correct,” Dr. Small responded.
“You’re the only medical professional who has ever concluded that Mr. Westcott lacked capacity in connection with any action taken by him in the year 2020,” the lawyer continued.
“That’s correct,” Dr. Small said.
Gudvi’s lawyers have tried repeatedly to bar Dr. Small’s testimony from the trial, but the judge shut them down again Tuesday, referring to the doctor’s testimony as “key” to Westcott’s case.
Beyond the issues of cognitive decline, Westcott and his lawyers argue he was suffering from extreme post-operative pain and under the influence of the opioid narcotic tramadol when he signed the paperwork with Perry.
Perry’s camp counters that before Perry and Gudvi even started bidding on the house, and before Westcott’s surgery, the entrepreneur negotiated with the broker representing Shriver, first offering to sell for $13 million, then $13.5 million, and finally $15 million.
“In other words, before any surgery or pain killers, Westcott set the $15 million sale price with a different proposed buyer,” Gudvi’s lawyers wrote in a court filing.
Westcott’s neuropsychologist, Dr. Rebecca Goodman, took the witness stand late Tuesday and said people with Huntington’s disease have a tendency to engage in “risky” behavior, but she declined to weigh in on whether Westcott was incapacitated in 2020. She examined him each year between 2016 and 2019, but that wasn’t “enough” to offer a retrospective opinion, she said.
“I lack information,” she testified. “Having a diagnosis is not enough to say you don’t have decision-making capacity.”
Westcott’s lawyers tried to subpoena Perry as a witness in this phase of the trial, but she countered the request was too late and she was traveling for work. She’ll only have to appear if Gudvi wins the first half of the bifurcated trial, meaning if the contract is upheld. The matter would then move on to the issue of damages, and Perry would be called to testify about her losses, the judge ruled last week. According to filings by Gudvi, Westcott’s delay in closing the sale caused Perry to suffer $3.2 million in losses related to the sale of her prior house and the rental of a comparable property at $75,000 a month.
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