Charter Communications must pay the family of a 83-year-old woman murdered by her cable installer more than $7 billion, a Dallas jury ruled. The jurors found that the company ignored red flags about its employee and forged documents to minimize their liabilities.
“This was a shocking breach of faith by a company that sends workers inside millions of homes every year,” trial lawyer Chris Hamilton, who represented the family with Dallas-based firm Hamilton Wingo, said in a statement. “The jury in this case was thoughtful and attentive to the evidence. This verdict justly 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 that Charter Spectrum and its shareholders are listening.”
The massive verdict represents more than eight percent of Charter Communications’ market capitalization, currently estimated at more than $80 billion. The company operates under the name Spectrum.
On Dec. 11, 2019, Spectrum sent Roy Holden, Jr. to the home of the elderly Betty Thomas, who reported problems with her bundled phone, TV, and internet service. Returning to her home the next day, Holden arrived in his Spectrum car and uniform and told Thomas that he had to perform follow-up repairs, but he wasn’t on the clock. He stabbed her to death and stole her wallet and ID, reportedly using her debit card hours after her murder.
Holden later pleaded guilty to Thomas’s murder and is serving a life sentence.
Months later, the family — led by the woman’s grandson William Goff — sued Holden in March 2020. They added Charter as a defendant in May, accusing the company of negligent hiring and supervision.
According to the family’s lawyers, trial testimony revealed that Charter hired Holden without verifying his employment history and “ignored a series of red flags,” including the killer’s written pleas to upper management to help him with financial and family problems.
Finding Charter’s action a “proximate cause” of Thomas’s death, jurors assigned the company 90 percent of the blame for civil liabilities.
In a special finding, jurors answered “Yes” when asked if Charter “knowingly or intentionally committed forgery of the terms and conditions of service” in order to compel the family into closed-door arbitration with “the intent to defraud or harm” them.
“Charter Spectrum had too many chances to prevent this tragedy, and the company showed a complete disregard for the safety of its customers. Worse, the trial reveals how vulnerable Charter Spectrum customers remain today at the hands of a company that appears not to care about public safety,” attorney Ray Khirallah, from the same firm, said in a statement. “This verdict fairly reflects the extent of the evidence against Charter Spectrum and the dangerous nature of the company’s serious misconduct and violations of the law.”
Following the verdict, Charter extended sympathies to the family but continued to insist that the crime was “not foreseeable.”
“Our hearts go out to Mrs. Thomas’ family in the wake of this senseless and tragic crime. The responsibility for this horrible act rests solely with Mr. Holden, who was not on duty, and we are grateful he is in prison for life,” Charter said in a statement. “While we respect the jury and the justice system, we strongly disagree with the verdict and will appeal.
The company said that Holden’s pre-employment criminal background check “showed no arrests, convictions or other criminal behavior.”
“Nor did anything in Mr. Holden’s performance after he was hired suggest he was capable of the crime he committed, including more than 1,000 completed service calls with zero customer complaints about his behavior,” the company added.
Read the verdict, below:
(Image via mugshot/verdict form)
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