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 at his Irving home.
A Dallas County jury on Tuesday ordered the telecommunications company, which also operates as Spectrum, to pay the amount after Betty Thomas’ family said security lapses led to her death.
A jury last month found the company liable for his death, and at the time the family was awarded $375 million in compensatory damages. Charter/Spectrum is responsible for 90% of this amount.
Thomas was stabbed multiple times by Spectrum technician Roy Holden Jr. while on a service call in December 2019, according to media reports.
He first visited her home on December 11, 2019, as she needed help with her Spectrum phone line.
He returned the next day in his Spectrum work van after learning she was still having trouble, even though he was off duty, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Thomas caught Holden stealing credit cards from her purse, so he stabbed her, according to the Dallas-based Hamilton Wingo Law Group, which represented Thomas’ family.
Holden later told authorities he used his work gloves and work knife to kill the woman.
He then went on a “spending spree” with his credit cards, the lawyers say.
In April 2021, he pleaded guilty to her murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
Testimony at the civil trial revealed that Holden yelled at her supervisors about difficulties in her personal life, including a divorce and financial troubles, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
Charter/Spectrum ignored the red flags and also hired him without background checks.
The Morning News reported that the company ended its scouting program when it acquired Time Warner in 2016.
Hamilton Wingo said there was a trend of thefts – 2,500 over several years – being reported by customers against employees.
The company “refused” to investigate them or report them to police, the lawyers said.
“Jurors agreed that Charter Spectrum’s actions were the ‘proximate cause’ of Ms Thomas’ death and found Charter Spectrum to be 90% responsible for the death, given Charter Spectrum’s continued refusal to correct its practices of negligent security despite a repeated pattern of violence against innocent customers. by its field technicians over a period of years,” Hamilton Wingo said in a press release.
The statement adds that after the family filed a lawsuit, “Charter Spectrum lawyers used a false document to attempt to force the lawsuit into a closed-door arbitration where the results would have been secret and the damages for the murder would have been limited to the amount of Ms. Thomas’ final bill.
Thomas’ family received a $58 bill for the service call and continued to receive the bills after his death, the Star-Telegram reported.
The company told the newspaper it plans to appeal.
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