Charter plans appeal of $7B judgement in Spectrum murder case

Charter Communications told Fierce it plans to appeal a jury decision which found it liable for the murder of an 83-year-old customer in 2019 and left it on the hook for more than $7.3 billion in damages.

A Texas jury originally ordered Charter Spectrum to pay $337.5 million in compensatory damages to the family of Betty Thomas in June. The sum amounted to 90% of a total penalty of $375 million, with the murderer Roy James Holden responsible for the remaining 10%. This week, the jury tacked on an additional $7 billion in exemplary damages against Charter. 

In December 2019, Holden performed a service call at Thomas’ home and returned the following day in his work vehicle while off-duty to enter her home. When Thomas discovered Holden stealing her credit cards, he attacked her with a utility knife. Holden subsequently pleaded guilty to the crime and was sentenced to life in prison last year.

Lawyers for Thomas’ family alleged Charter failed to verify Holden’s employment history and ignored statements he made indicating he was severely distressed about financial and family issues.

Ray Khirallah, one of the family’s attorneys, claimed in a statement Charter “had too many chances to prevent this tragedy, and the company showed a complete disregard for the safety of its customers.” He added the verdict “fairly reflects the extent of the evidence” against the operator.

However, a Charter representative contended “The law in Texas and the facts presented at trial clearly show this crime was not foreseeable — and the plaintiffs’ claims of wrongdoing by Charter are categorically false.”

The operator representative continued: “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.”

Charter’s representative called the crime “senseless and tragic,” but said responsibility for Thomas’ death “rests solely with Mr. Holden, who was not on duty.” The rep added Charter strongly disagrees with the verdict and will appeal.