Excerpted from a WFAA-TV Story by Jay Wallis

A Dallas County jury found Charter Communications, which also operates as Spectrum, acted negligently in hiring a field technician who killed one of its customers. The company now owes billions of dollars in damages.

The jury awarded $7 billion in damages against Charter for “systemic safety failures” in connection to the 2019 murder of 83-year-old Betty Thomas by one of the technicians. Earlier in June, a jury also said Charter had to pay 90% of $375 million in compensatory damages to Thomas’ family.

During this June verdict, the jury found Charter liable for the robbery and stabbing death of Thomas by a company employee. In December 2019, officers arrested 43-year-old Roy Holden Jr., and he later pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2021.

Dallas-based Hamilton Wingo represented the family in this case.

“This was a shocking breach of faith by a company that sends workers inside millions of homes every year,” Hamilton Wingo trial lawyer Chris Hamilton said. “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.”

The complaint against Charter from the victim’s family said the cable company got rid of an employee background screening program that Time Warner Cable had in place when Charter bought the multiple-system operator in 2016. Spectrum allegedly hired Holden without verifying his employment history, which would have shown he lied about his work history.

A review of Holden’s previous employers would have revealed firings for forgery, falsifying documents and harassment of fellow employees, according to trial testimony.

Holden was the Spectrum field technician who visited Thomas’ house back in December 2019 to help with her phone line. He went back to her place the next day using a Spectrum van and stabbed her with a utility knife supplied by the cable company.

Holden took her credit cards and went on a “spending spree” in June, attorneys. They also said Thomas’ death could have been prevented and Spectrum had “systemic failures” in its hiring practices.

According to testimony, Spectrum ignored requests by police and prosecutors to preserve evidence. One Spectrum security executive testified the company was “not necessarily” obligated to cooperate with police.

After Thomas’ family filed the lawsuit, Hamilton Wingo said Spectrum attorneys used a forged document to try and force the lawsuit into a closed-door arbitration.

Attorneys said Thomas’ family later received a bill from Spectrum that included a $58 charge for the murderer’s service call and continued to receive bills for service weeks after Thomas died.

During the trial, it was also revealed there had been more than 2,500 thefts by Spectrum employees against customers in the past several years, which the company refused to investigate or report to police.

“Charter Spectrum had too many chances to prevent this tragedy, and the company showed a complete disregard for the safety of customers,” Hamilton Wingo trial lawyer Ray Khirallah said.

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