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A cable company said it plans to appeal a $375 million jury verdict in which it was found 90% liable in an employee’s murder of an 83-year-old customer.
A Dallas jury on Thursday found Stamford, Connecticut-based Charter Communications LLC, which operates under the name Spectrum, liable in connection with the 2019 death of Betty Thomas. A second trial to determine punitive damages is scheduled for Monday, according to a spokeswoman for the plaintiff law firm.
According to news reports, Charter employee Roy James Holden Jr. paid a service visit to Ms. Thomas, then returned the next day while off the clock wearing his company uniform and driving his company van and stabbed her to death with a company-issued knife. Mr. Holden is now serving a life sentence.
According to the jury verdict form in the case, William Goff et al. v. Roy James Holden Jr. and Charter Communications LLC, the Dallas County jury responded “yes” to the question of whether Charter’s negligence caused Ms. Thomas’ death, and found the company 90% responsible, and Mr. Holden 10% responsible.
The jury specified a $100 million award for Ms. Thomas’ pain and mental anguish, among other charges.
Plaintiff law firm Dallas-based Hamilton Wingo LLP said in a statement that trial testimony “revealed systemic 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 – all of which led” to Ms. Thomas’ preventable murder.
Charter said in a statement, “The responsibility for this horrible act rests solely with Mr. Holden, and we are grateful he is in prison for life. While we respect the jury and the justice system, we strongly disagree with the verdict and plan to appeal.”
The statement continued, “The law in Texas and the facts presented at trial clearly show this crime was not foreseeable: 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 behavior.
“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 behavior.”