Dallas Charter Communications has been ordered to pay a family in North Texas $7 billion in punitive damages after their 83-year-old relative was murdered by a technician at their home in Irving.
A Dallas County jury on Tuesday ordered the telecommunications company, which also operates as Spectrum, to make the payment after Betty Thomas’ family said safety failures led to her death.
Last month, a jury found the company responsible for her death, and at the time, the family was awarded $375 million in damages. Charter/Spectrum is responsible for 90% of this amount.
Thomas was stabbed multiple times by a spectrum technician, Roy Holden Jr., while on a service call in December 2019, according to media reports.
He first went to her house on December 11, 2019, because she needed help with her Spectrum phone line.
The Dallas Morning News reported that he returned the next day in his Spectrum work truck after learning it was still having problems, even though it was out of service.
Thomas Holden caught stealing credit cards from her purse and stabbed her, according to Dallas-based Hamilton Wingo Law Group, which represented the Thomas family.
Holden later told authorities that he had used work gloves and a work knife to kill the woman.
He then went on a “spending spree” with her credit cards, according to the lawyers.
In April of 2021, he pleaded guilty to her murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Testimony at the civil trial revealed that Holden shouted out to supervisors about suffering in his personal life, including divorce and financial problems, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported.
Charter/Spectrum ignored red flags and also hired him without checking his employment history.
Morning News reported that the company ended its screening program when it acquired Time Warner in 2016.
Hamilton Wingo said there has been a pattern of thefts – 2,500 over several years – reported by customers against employees.
The lawyers said the company “refused” to investigate them or report them to the police.
“The jurors agreed that Charter Spectrum’s actions were the ‘direct cause’ of Ms Thomas’ death, and found Charter Spectrum to be 90% responsible for the death, given Charter Spectrum’s continued refusal to correct neglected safety practices despite a recurring pattern of violence against innocent customers,” said Hamilton Wingo. In a press release.
The release adds that after the family filed a lawsuit, “Charter Spectrum attorneys used a forged document to attempt to force the lawsuit into a closed arbitration where the results were confidential and compensation for the murder would have been limited to the amount of Mrs. Thomas’ final bill.”
Thomas’ family received a $58 bill for the service call and continued to receive bills after her death, Star-Telegram reported.
The company told the newspaper it plans to appeal.
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