NYC Child Killer Must Pay $15M to Mother

New York Times/January 17, 2007

New York -- Joel Steinberg, the disbarred lawyer who served 17 years in prison for killing his illegally adopted daughter, must pay $15 million to the girl's birth mother, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The appeals court affirmed a lower court decision to award Michele Launders $5 million for 6-year-old Lisa Steinberg's pain and suffering, $5 million for pain and suffering ''as a battered child'' and $5 million in punitive damages.

Joel Steinberg argued the award was excessive and should be reduced because Lisa died relatively quickly, after ''at most eight hours of pain and suffering.''

''We disagree, and in simply so stating acknowledge that sometimes words fail even those who use the language to render judgments on a daily basis,'' the court wrote.

Steinberg got Lisa as a days-old infant from Launders, at the time an unwed teen, who paid him $500 in legal fees to arrange an adoption. Instead, Steinberg took the baby home to Hedda Nussbaum, his live-in companion.

After Lisa's death at Steinberg's hands on November 1987, Launders filed wrongful-death lawsuits against Steinberg, Nussbaum and New York City the following year. The action against Nussbaum was settled. The city settled with Launders in 1999 for $985,000 while admitting no wrongdoing.

Steinberg, 65, was released from prison in June 2004 and is on parole until 2012. Launders' lawyer, Wayne J. Schaefer, said he does not believe Steinberg has any significant assets.

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