Jury finds US cable company must pay millions in damages after employee’s murder of female customer


The verdict followed 11 days of testimony in a Dallas County courtroom after defence 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. — Photo by EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brown-wooden-gavel-on-brown-wooden-table-6077326/

A jury in Dallas County has found Charter Communications, which also operates as Spectrum, negligent in the 2019 robbery and stabbing death of an 83-year-old woman by a Spectrum cable installer and awarded US$357mil (RM1.57bil) in compensatory damages.

The jury reached their decision on June 23 in the murder of Betty Thomas at her Irving home in December 2019 and ordered Charter Communications to pay Thomas’ family 90% of the damage amount.

Officials said that damage amount could increase on June 26 when the jury considers punitive damages in the case.

The verdict followed 11 days of testimony in a Dallas County courtroom after defence 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.

“While we respect the jury and the justice system, we strongly disagree with the verdict and plan to appeal,” according to a statement released by officials with Charter Communications/Spectrum.

“The law in Texas and the facts presented at trial clearly show this crime was not foreseeable,” according to the statement. “At Charter, 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 behaviour. 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 behaviour.”

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.

“Our hearts go out to Mrs Thomas’ family in the wake of this senseless and tragic crime,” according to the Charter Communications/ Spectrum news release. “The responsibility for this horrible act rests solely with Mr Holden, and we are grateful he is in prison for life.”

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 cheques, according to testimony.

Holden performed a service call on 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 US$58 (RM255) 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. – Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service

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