New Orleans Saints owner's family appeals mental competency ruling

Wed Jun 24, 2015 4:45pm EDT
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By Kathy Finn

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Three relatives of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson on Wednesday appealed a ruling by a state court judge who declared the 87-year-old billionaire mentally fit to control his major league sports teams and other businesses.

Benson's daughter, Renee Benson Benham, and her adult children, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc, believe that the businessman's "cognitive impairment" is worse than the court determined and could worsen, the family's lawyer, Randall Smith, said in a prepared statement.

The appeal is filed in the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal.

Tom Benson's attorney, Phil Wittmann, could not be reached for comment on the decision to appeal.

The family filed a lawsuit in January in Civil District Court in New Orleans claiming their father and grandfather is "infirm" and "unable to consistently make reasoned decisions" regarding his assets.

The suit charged that Tom Benson's third wife, Gayle, blocked family members from access to him and was manipulating his decisions.

The family's action followed Tom Benson's move in December to ban their participation in running either the Saints or the NBA team he also owns, the New Orleans Pelicans, and to name Gayle Benson as his successor in owning the teams.

Tom Benson prevailed in the case following an eight-day trial that pitted the family members against him in a New Orleans courtroom.

(Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Lambert)

New Orleans Saints team owner Tom Benson looks on as his team participates in a NFL training camp in Metairie, Louisiana July 26, 2013. REUTERS/Sean Gardner