The Real Deal New York

Linda Stein’s daughters sue Elliman in mother’s murder

November 04, 2009 02:02PM
By Adam Pincus

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Linda Stein and her alleged killer, Natavia Lowery

The two daughters of murdered Prudential Douglas Elliman broker Linda Stein claim the brokerage was negligent in hiring the woman who was charged with Stein’s 2007 death.

Daughters Samantha Wells and Mandy Stein allege in a new wrongful death lawsuit that the city’s largest residential brokerage hired Natavia Lowery, their mother’s personal and work assistant, despite several arrest warrants having been filed against her and should have hired someone from within the company, rather than through a job placement agency.

The brokerage “failed to perform their own background check on Natavia S. Lowery or use better judgment when hiring someone such as this for a professional such as Linda Stein who dealt with celebrity clients and multi-million dollar properties,” the suit, which does not specify the amount of money the daughters are seeking, says.

The lawsuit was filed by Wells in New York State Supreme Court Oct. 30, exactly two years to the day from the slaying of their mother in her Fifth Avenue home, and names Prudential Douglas Elliman entities, as well as the temporary agency Axion that provided Lowery as an employee.

The suit comes in the nick of time because in most instances in New York, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of death, legal experts said.

Stein was bludgeoned to death in her penthouse apartment at 965 Fifth Avenue between 77th and 78th streets. Days later Lowery was arrested and charged in the killing. She initially confessed to the murder, but later recanted saying her statement had been coerced, and no trial date has been set.

The suit claims that Lowery told Stein’s supervisor, Ronald Tardanico, an executive vice president at Elliman, that Lowery was unhappy working for Stein. But the brokerage did not inform Stein that her assistant was unhappy, thereby placing Stein in a dangerous situation as they worked in close quarters in Stein’s apartment, the suit alleges.

Stein was considered one of the city’s top residential brokers, having sold multi-million dollar properties to stars such as Michael Douglas and Steven Spielberg.

Neither Wells nor Stein nor Axion immediately responded to calls for comment.

Elliman said through a spokesperson that it did not comment on ongoing litigation.

Wells filed the case without an attorney, which was an unusual move, legal experts said.

“Most of these types of cases are handled by experienced attorneys and not by people on behalf of themselves and the estate,” attorney Peter Agulnick, who focuses on civil litigation, said.

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