Charter Communications must pay $1.15 billion to the family of a woman who was murdered in her home by a cable technician, a Texas judge has ruled.
Dallas County Judge Juan Renteria on Monday slashed an earlier $7.38 billion verdict that was awarded in July to the family of Betty Thomas. The reduction may be a win for Charter, but the verdict has proved a significant thorn in the company’s side. Shares in Charter dropped 2.5 percent on Tuesday to lows not seen since 2019.
Charter said in a statement that it disagrees with the verdict and will appeal.
“The responsibility for this horrible act rests solely with Mr. Holden, who was not on duty, and we are grateful he is in prison for life,” it said.
Charter cable technician Roy Holden Jr. performed a service call at Thomas’ house in December 2019. He returned the next day when he was off-duty, using the company’s van and wearing a Charter uniform. He stabbed Thomas after she found him trying to rob her.
The massive award was premised on Charter’s negligent hiring of Holden, who had a history of being fired for misconduct, and the company submitting forged documents to force the case into arbitration, where damages would have been limited to less than $200, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Chris Hamilton.
Lawyers for Thomas’ family voluntarily remitted the initial $7 billion punitive damages award to an amount equal to two times the $375 million compensatory damages figure. Hamilton said that the reduction makes the judgment “exceedingly unlikely to be overturned on appeal given the criminal forgery findings against Charter and established Supreme Court precedent.”
Charter has maintained that the crime wasn’t foreseeable.
“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,” it said in a statement. “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.”