Cable Company Must Pay $1B After Installer Killed Customer

Lawyers for victim's family believe the judgment won't be overturned on appeal
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 29, 2022 2:05 PM CDT
Updated Sep 21, 2022 5:05 PM CDT
Cable Company Must Pay $7B After Installer Killed Customer
A Charter Spectrum truck sits in a Florida parking lot.   (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Update: It's still a massive sum, just not quite as massive. A Texas judge on Monday lowered the damages Charter must pay in connection with the murder of one of its customers to $1.15 billion. A Texas jury had set those damages at $7 billion in July after finding Charter responsible for the 2019 murder of Betty Thomas at the hands of Charter technician Roy Holden. Lawyers for Thomas' family explain the family "voluntarily 'remitted' the initial $7 billion punitive damages award to an amount equal to two times the compensatory damages in requesting entry of judgment." They say the reduction makes it "exceedingly unlikely" the judgment would be overturned on appeal. The Hollywood Reporter notes Charter's shares fell 2.5% Tuesday to a three-year low. They fell another 2.7% on Wednesday. Our original story from July follows:

A Texas jury has ordered Charter Spectrum to pay more than $7 billion in damages in the stabbing death of an 83-year-old customer by one of its installers. Roy James Holden is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to murder in April 2021, NBC News reports. Holden had worked in Betty Thomas' home in Irving one day in December 2019, then returned the next day when he was off work, after learning she was still having trouble with her internet access, per KXAS. After arriving in a company van and killing Thomas with a knife owned by the company, Holden took her credit cards and started making purchases. Charter Spectrum later billed Thomas' family for the $58 service call.

In its decision on a lawsuit filed by Thomas' family, the jury found Charter Spectrum negligent last month, faulting the company's pre-employee screening, hiring, and supervision. Compensatory damages were set at $375 million, and the jury said the company must pay 90% of that amount. Punitive damages added this week make the total $7.37 billion. The company said that Holden alone was responsible for the killing and that it will appeal the verdict. A family lawyer called the crime "a shocking breach of faith by a company that sends workers inside millions of homes every year."

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The Thomas family's lawyers also said the jury found Charter Spectrum forged a document in its effort to send the suit to closed-door arbitration. That would have kept the outcome secret and limited damages to the amount of the victim's final bill, they said. The company denied all wrongdoing and said there had been no problems with Holden's work before December 2019, adding that there was nothing to "suggest he was capable of the crime he committed, including more than 1,000 completed service calls with zero customer complaints about his behavior." (Read more Charter Communications stories.)

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