A Manhattan employment agency may be financially responsible for the wrongful death of famed realtor Linda Stein, who was murdered in 2007 by a young assistant sent by the agency.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings ruled that Douglas Elliman should not be responsible for Stein’s fatal beating by Natavia Lowery, as she was technically not his employer, even though he had paid the Lowery’s services as a benefit for Stein.
Stein, a former rock music executive, was a wildly successful Douglas Elliman broker whose clients included Madonna, Sting, Billy Joel and Elton John.
The judge said Lowery was controlled by Axion LLC, an employment agency that recommended Lowery to Douglas Elliman.
Billings said Axion has a responsibility to do a minimum background investigation of Lowery and so far its leaders have not shown that has been done.
Stein’s family attorney, Andrew Leftt, said in court papers that Axion felt Lowery was qualified to work with Stein at her home because she sent her to another company to do similar work.
However, the judge noted that Axion’s own personal records showed that Lowery never showed up for the job.
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Leftt said if someone had checked Lowery’s credentials, they would have learned that she once strangled her college roommate and stole her identity and stole money from her last job to a church in Virginia.
Lowery, now 34, was convicted of hitting Stein in the head and neck with a baton and stealing $30,000 by forging Stein’s name on checks and using his cards credit. She was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the murder.
Court documents show that Stein, a 62-year-old grandmother battling breast cancer when she died, chose Lowery out of three candidates Douglas Elliman offered her because Lowery was the only woman and Stein needed care. staff and secretarial assistance.
Billings said that if a jury finds Axion guilty of “negligent hiring, supervising or retaining Lowery” and that it caused Stein’s death, then “Axion could be liable on that basis for his wrongful death.” “.
“An employer must investigate the background of a potential employee if, based on known facts, a reasonably prudent person would conduct such an investigation,” the judge said.
Axion knew that Lowery had failed to show up for the previous job and that she hadn’t shown up to court for a traffic violation.
“While such conduct may not show his propensity for violence, such revealed irresponsibility would prompt further investigation into his poor job performance and irresponsibility, potentially revealing more serious misconduct and may have been the sole reason for not not hire him for another placement,” the judge ruled.