A jury in Dallas County on Tuesday awarded $7 billion in punitive damages against Charter Communications, which also operates as Spectrum, for its part in the 2019 robbery and stabbing death of an 83-year-old woman by a Spectrum cable installer in Irving.
Jurors in Dallas County Court at Law 5 reached their decision in the negligence punishment phase of the trial in a lawsuit against Charter/Spectrum by the victim’s family.
On June 23, the jury found Charter/Spectrum liable for the holdup and killing of 83-year-old Betty Thomas in her home by a company employee. Jurors at that time awarded $375 million in compensatory damages, of which Spectrum is responsible for paying 90 percent.
Tuesday’s verdict brings the total damages the jury awarded to Thomas’ family to more than $7.3 billion.
“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, who represented the victim’s family, in a Tuesday news release. “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.”
Officials with Charter Communications said on Tuesday they would appeal.
“Our hearts go out to Mrs. Thomas’ family in the wake of this senseless and tragic crime,” according to a statement Charter officials released on Tuesday. “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.”
The June verdict followed 11 days of testimony in the Dallas County courtroom after attorneys said that testimony revealed failures of the company’s pre-employee screening, hiring and supervision practices as well as failures to address known warning signs and control the off-duty use of company vehicles.
“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,” according to the Charter news release. “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.”
One day in December 2019, Spectrum cable installer Roy Holden Jr. made a service call at Thomas’ home.
He returned the next day, in his Spectrum uniform and driving his Spectrum van, to rob Thomas.
“So I had stopped there because I was broke,” Holden told Irving detectives, according to court documents. “I was hungry.”
During the holdup, Holden stabbed Thomas multiple times on her neck and forearm, leaving her body on the living room floor in front of a television.
Holden later told Irving detectives that he had used his Spectrum work gloves and Charter Communications knife to kill the woman.
Last year, Holden pleaded guilty to murder and he was sentenced to life in prison.
During the civil trial, testimony noted that Holden made multiple outcries to supervisors about significant personal and financial issues having to do with a divorce that left him no money, even crying at a meeting.
He then began scamming elderly female Spectrum customers, stealing their credit cards and checks, according to testimony.
Holden performed a service call at Thomas’ home the day before her murder in December 2019. He was off-duty the following day, but he learned that Thomas reported she was still having problems with her service.
He used the company key card to enter a Spectrum vehicle and drove it to Thomas’ home.
Thomas’ family later received a $58 charge for Holden’s service call, and the bills continued to come after the murder and eventually they were sent to a collection agency, according to testimony.