A Dallas court has added a whopping $7 billion in penalty judgments to an earlier $337 million compensatory damages verdict against Charter Communications over the murder of an 83-year-old customer by one of the cable company's field technicians.
Charter said it will appeal the verdict.
In June, a Dallas jury found Charter 90% responsible for the December 2019 stabbing death of Irving, Texas resident Betty Thomas at the hands of Roy Holden. The former Charter tech is now spending the rest of his life in a Texas penitentiary after pleading guilty to the murder.
In June, a jury needed just 11 days to award the victim's estate $337 million in compensatory damages.
This week, Charter was hit with an additional $7 billion, which the victim's law firm said is meant to punish the cable company for "systemic safety failures" that it said resulted in the tragedy.
“This was a shocking breach of faith by a company that sends workers inside millions of homes every year,” said trial lawyer Chris Hamilton of Dallas-based Hamilton Wingo. “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.”
Charter responded with this statement: “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. While we respect the jury and the justice system, we strongly disagree with the verdict and will appeal.
“The law in Texas and the facts presented at trial clearly show this crime was not foreseeable — and the plaintiffs’ claims of wrongdoing by Charter are categorically false," Charter added. "We are committed to the safety of all our customers and took the necessary steps, including a thorough pre-employment criminal background check — which 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 plaintiffs also said that a cursory look at Holden’s background would have revealed his history of firings for forging documents and harassing coworkers. (Again, Charter said Holden's background was vetted.)
Further, the plaintiffs argued that Charter ignored obvious cries for help from the convicted killer, who was fresh off a divorce and distraught over his financial situation. In his desperation, he turned to robbing elderly Charter employees he came in contact with through his job, plaintiffs said.
USA Today did a deep dive into the case earlier this month. You can read that report here.▪️
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Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!