A Dallas County jury determined that Charter Communications, formerly known as Spectrum, was liable in hiring a field technician who murdered one of its customers. The corporation is now liable for billions of dollars in damages.
The jury awarded Charter $7 billion in punitive damages for “systematic safety failures” in the 2019 murder of 83-year-old Betty Thomas by one of the workers. Earlier in June, a jury ordered Charter to pay Thomas’ family 90 percent of $375 million in compensatory damages.
The jury held Charter accountable for the robbery and stabbing death of Thomas by a company employee during this June verdict. Officers apprehended Roy Holden Jr., 43, in December 2019, and he later pled guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2021.
Hamilton Wingo, headquartered in Dallas, represented the family in this lawsuit.
According to the victim’s family’s case against Charter, the cable company terminated an employee screening policy that Time Warner Cable had in operation when Charter purchased the multiple-system operator in 2016. Spectrum allegedly employed Holden without validating his career history, which would have revealed he lied about his work history.
According to trial testimony, a review of Holden’s former employment would have shown firings for falsification, fabricating documents, and harassing coworkers.
Holden was the Spectrum field tech who came to Thomas’ residence in December 2019 to assist her with her phone line. The next day, he returned to her house in a Spectrum van and stabbed her with a utility knife provided by the cable provider.
After responding to an unconscious person report, police discovered Thomas’ body. Thomas had several stab wounds and was dead when authorities arrived, according to detectives.
Attorneys stated in June that Holden used her credit cards and went on a “spending spree.” They also claimed that Thomas’ death may have been avoided and that Spectrum’s recruiting practices had “systemic failures.”
According to prosecution testimony, Holden allegedly made several outcries to supervisors in the days leading up to Thomas’ murder citing serious personal and financial troubles related to a divorce that left him without money or a place to call home. He also allegedly sobbed in a meeting, telling his supervisor that he was unhappy.
Shortly after being denied money, he began defrauding older female Spectrum cable clients by swiping their credit cards and checks, according to testimony.
Holden apparently had complete illegal access to his Spectrum vehicle and had probably been sleeping in it in the weeks leading up to the murder.
According to testimony, Spectrum refused police and prosecutors’ requests to preserve evidence. According to one Spectrum security executive, the corporation was “not necessarily” required to speak the truth or assist the police.
Hamilton Wingo claimed that when Thomas’ family filed the lawsuit, Spectrum attorneys used a fake document to try to force the case into closed-door arbitration, where the conclusions would have been kept private and damages for the killing would have been restricted to the amount of Thomas’ final bill.
According to Hamilton Wingo, the jury found Spectrum guilty of forgery beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a first-degree felony under Texas law.
According to attorneys, Thomas’ family received a bill from Spectrum that contained a $58 charge for the murderer’s service call and continued to receive service invoices for weeks after Thomas died.
During the trial, it was also disclosed that Spectrum workers had committed over 2,500 thefts against consumers in the previous several years, which the corporation refused to investigate or report to authorities.