Charter to pay $7 billion in damages after installer murders woman

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Charter Communications must pay $7 billion in damages after one of its Spectrum cable technicians robbed and killed an elderly woman, a jury ruled on Tuesday.

Betty Thomas, 83, was stabbed to death by Roy Holden Jr in December 2019. He had gone to her home in Irving, Texas, during a service call after reporting a problem with her Internet-TV package, and returned the next day in his company uniform and van, inviting himself in and killing her using his Spectrum-issued gloves and utility knife.

She was found dead by her family on her living room floor after she failed to show up for a Christmas and birthday party that night.

Holden pleaded guilty to murder last year and was sentenced to life in the bars.

Thomas’ family sued Charter [PDF] in 2020 for negligence. It was alleged in testimony that Holden complained to his bosses that he was penniless and desperate after a divorce. It was further alleged that he stole credit cards and checks from elderly Spectrum subscribers, and that the company turned a blind eye to a pattern of theft by its installers and technicians.

During this civil lawsuit, it was also claimed that Thomas’ family was billed $58 for Holden’s service call and continued to be billed after their grandmother’s brutal murder to the point where his account was sent to collections.

The court heard that Holden wasn’t working the day he killed Thomas and went to her house to rob her anyway. He was able to use his company key card to access a Charter fleet and drive off in one of his service vans even though he was off duty. According to the family’s legal team, while Holden was apparently making repairs, he attempted to steal one or more of her bank cards from her purse and murdered her when caught in the act. He later went on a spending spree with his funds, it was claimed.

“This is a shocking betrayal of faith by a company that sends workers to millions of homes every year,” said one of the family’s attorneys, Chris Hamilton, of Hamilton Wingo, based in Dallas, in a statement.

According to the law firm, Holden lied about his work history – for example by not disclosing that he had previously been fired – which was not verified by Charter when he hired him and was allegedly the one of many red flags against him. During the civil trial, the court heard how Holden would break down crying at work, at one point he was convinced he was a former Dallas Cowboys football player, suffered from insomnia and probably slept through the night in his Spectrum van.

It was further claimed that the cable giant tried to force the lawsuit into a closed-door arbitration where the results would have been secret and the damages limited.

In June, a Dallas County Court jury awarded the family $357 million in compensatory damages, 90% of which the US cable giant must pay. This week, the panel set the punitive damages at $7 billion for a total of more than $7.3 billion.

“The jury in this case was thoughtful and attentive to the evidence,” Hamilton added. “This verdict rightly reflects the extensive evidence regarding the nature of the harm caused by Charter Spectrum’s gross negligence and reckless misconduct. For the safety of the American public, we can only hope Charter Spectrum and its shareholders are listening. “

A Charter spokesperson said The register tonight he will appeal both verdicts, insisting the ISP was not at fault.

“Our hearts go out to the family of Ms. Thomas following this senseless and tragic crime,” the rep told us.

“Responsibility for this horrific act rests solely with Mr. Holden, who was off duty, and we are grateful that he is in prison for life. While we respect the jury and the justice system, we are strongly in disagree with the verdict and will appeal.

“Texas law and the facts presented at trial make it clear that this crime was not foreseeable – and the Charter Plaintiffs’ allegations of wrongdoing are flatly false.

“We are committed to the safety of all of our clients and have taken the necessary steps, including a thorough criminal background check prior to employment – which revealed no arrests, convictions or other criminal behavior. Nothing in the performance of Mr. Holden after his hiring also suggests he was capable of the crime he committed, including more than 1,000 service calls completed without any customer complaints about his behavior.” ®

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