Dallas County Jury Awards $7 Billion to Family of Grandmother Who was Murdered by Spectrum Cable Company Employee

Figure 1: Photo credit – www.ksat.com – https://bit.ly/38oqcli

On Tuesday, July 26, 2022, a Dallas County jury handed down a verdict for punitive damages totaling a $7.37 billion award for a family of an eighty-three-year-old grandmother Betty Thomas who was viciously killed in her home by a Spectrum Cable employee in 2019. The perpetrator, Roy James Holden, was an installer for Spectrum, a cable company owned by Charter Communications, which enjoyed $48.1 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2020. In December 2019, Holden serviced Thomas’ home in Irving, Texas. The following day, on his day off, Holden returned to Thomas’ home with his Spectrum service van and dressed in his Spectrum work clothes to create the illusion that he was on the job. With this false pretense, Thomas allowed Holden access to her home. Once inside, Holden brutally murdered Betty Thomas. At trial, the evidence showed that he did so for Thomas’ credit cards, for which he used to go on a shopping spree after he killed Ms. Thomas in her home.

For these outrageous and appalling facts, a Dallas County jury in June 2020 found Charter Communications negligent and grossly negligent for Betty Thomas’ wrongful death, on behalf of her surviving family members who are empowered by Texas law to bring a civil action on behalf of and for their deceased grandmother. In the first phase of a bifurcated trial, the jury awarded $375 million in compensatory damages after it found that Charter Communications was guilty of “systematic failures” in the company’s pre-employee screening, hiring, and supervision practices. At trial, the plaintiffs put on evidence that proved Spectrum hired Holden without verifying his employment, which would have revealed that he had lied about his work history, along with other serious “red flags” that Spectrum totally ignored or did not bother to investigate. Apparently, Holden’s attack on Ms. Thomas was one of more than 2,500 thefts committed by Charter Spectrum employees against customers in the years leading up to the incident.

As if it could be worse, evidence at trial demonstrated that after the Thomas family filed suit against Charter Spectrum, the company attempted to use a forged document to improperly force the action into arbitration, which would have egregiously limited the family’s maximum recovery to Ms. Thomas’s final bill. Ironically, after the murder but before the lawsuit, Spectrum sent a $58 charge for Holden’s service call and unpaid bills, which were eventually sent to a collection agency.

As is typical with large verdicts against large corporations in the State of Texas, Charter Communications has appealed the jury’s verdict, stating that the jury’s findings of wrongdoing, in this case, was “categorically false.” Time will tell.

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed by another’s negligence or what you believe to be product failure or negligence at the workplace, please contact the office of Ben Agosto III at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner, at (713) 222-7211; toll-free at 1-800-594-4884; or by email at [email protected].