Tort Law

Joel Steinberg Wants $15 M Award Tossed

Disbarred lawyer Joel Steinberg, convicted of manslaughter for killing his adopted daughter with a blow to the head, is asking New York’s highest court to overturn a $15 million civil judgment against him.

Six-year-old Lisa endured “at most, eight hours of pain and suffering,” Steinberg says in legal briefs filed with the New York Court of Appeals, according to the New York Law Journal. He contends he has been unfairly portrayed as “heinous, calloused, unloving” when in reality he was a “caring, ‘doting,’ responsible parent.”

The case will be heard today, but Steinberg will not appear for oral arguments. Steinberg told the New York Daily News that he has a good chance of winning, based on the “quality of my legal briefs” and medical reports indicating Lisa did not have serious injuries.

Michele Launders obtained the judgment against Steinberg for the 1987 beating death of her biological child. Steinberg had promised Launders he would find a good home for her baby, then kept the child.

A state appeals court in a January ruling called Steinberg “a convicted child killer and abuser who fatally felled his 6-year-old daughter with one blow of his hand, and then went out to dinner as she lay on a bathroom floor losing consciousness over next eight to 10 hours,” the New York Post reports.

The appeals court had upheld a grant of summary judgment for Launders in her suit against Steinberg, saying he was collaterally estopped from rearguing the facts based on his criminal conviction, the New York Law Journal says. Two dissenters said collateral estoppel applied to findings that Steinberg struck his daughter on the night of her death, but not to allegations of past abuse and neglect.

The appeal raises the collateral estoppel issue and contends the $5 million portion of the award for pain and suffering was excessive.

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