DALLAS – Charter Communications was ordered to pay a North Texas family $7 billion in punitive damages after their 83-year-old relative was killed by a technician in her Irving home.
A Dallas County jury on Tuesday ordered the telecommunications company, which also operates as Spectrum, to pay the amount after the family of Betty Thomas said safety failures led to her death.
Last month, the jury found the company liable for her death and, at the time, the family was awarded $375 million in compensatory damages. Charter/Spectrum is responsible for 90% of that amount.
Thomas was stabbed multiple times by the Spectrum technician, Roy Holden Jr., as he made a service call in December 2019, according to media reports.
He first went to her home on Dec. 11, 2019, because she needed help with her Spectrum phone line.
He returned the next day in his Spectrum work van after learning she was still having issues, although he was off-duty, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Thomas caught Holden stealing credit cards from her purse, so he stabbed her, according to Dallas-based law group Hamilton Wingo, who represented Thomas’ family.
Holden later told authorities that he used his work gloves and work knife to kill the woman.
He then went on a “spending spree” with her credit cards, according to the attorneys.
In April of 2021, he pleaded guilty to her murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Testimony in the civil trial revealed that Holden had made outcries to supervisors about struggles in his personal life, including a divorce and financial problems, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Charter/Spectrum ignored the red flags and also hired him without verifying his employment history.
The Morning News reported that the company ended its screening program when it acquired Time Warner in 2016.
Hamilton Wingo said that there was a pattern of thefts — 2,500 over several years — reported by customers against employees.
The company “refused” to investigate them or report them to the police, the attorneys said.
“Jurors agreed that Charter Spectrum’s actions were the ‘proximate cause’ of Ms. Thomas death, and found Charter Spectrum 90% responsible for the death, given Charter Spectrum’s continued refusal to correct its negligent safety practices despite a repeated pattern of violence against innocent customers by its field techs over a period of years,” Hamilton Wingo said in a news release.
The release adds that after the family filed a lawsuit, “Charter Spectrum attorneys used a forged document to try to force the lawsuit into a closed-door arbitration where the results would have been secret and damages for the murder would have been limited to the amount of Ms. Thomas’s final bill.”
Thomas’ family received a $58 bill for the service call and continued to receive the bills after her death, the Star-Telegram reported.
The company told the newspaper that they plan to appeal.