A Texas jury recently found Charter Communications liable for $7 billion in punitive damages relating to a 2019 case in which one of its technicians murdered an elderly woman in her home.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a Texas jury found Charter Communications liable for $7 billion in punitive damages this week after finding the cable company responsible for one of its employees who robbed and murdered an elderly customer in 2019.
83-year-old Betty Thomas was murdered by Roy Holden Jr., a cable technician for Charter. Holden performed a service call at Thomas’s home and returned the followed day where he stole credit cards from Thomas’s purse and stabbed her using a tool from his company toolbox.
Holden admitted to the crime in April 2021 and was sentenced to life in prison. Holden was off duty when he murdered Thomas but was wearing his Charter uniform and driving a company van. The jury awarded Thomas’s family $375 million in compensatory damages a few weeks ago, of which Charter is responsible for 90 percent. On Tuesday, the jury decided on the $7 billion in punitive damages.
Brian Kabateck, a California lawyer, commented: “It’s a breathtaking amount of punitive damage. I think the shelf life of this verdict is going to be very short.” Kabateck pointed to a previous Supreme Court ruling that founding punitive damages should not be more than a 10-times multiplier of compensatory damages.
“Oftentimes in punitive damages cases, judges are the 13th juror because they have the discretion to completely affirm a verdict or throw it out entirely. I would suspect this judge would probably take a very dim view of the size of this verdict and probably cut it down,” he said.
W. Mark Lanier, a Texas civil-trial lawyer, commented: “Punitive damages like that are never paid—they’re always reduced. They’re a message of how frustrated the jury was with egregious facts.”
A Charter spokesperson commented: “Our hearts go out to Mrs. Thomas’s family in the wake of this senseless and tragic crime. The responsibility for this horrible act rests solely with Mr. Holden, who wasn’t on duty, 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 will appeal.”
Chris Hamilton, a Hamilton Wingo LLP lawyer who is representing the family of Thomas, claims that there is overwhelming evidence that showed Charter’s negligence that led to the crime and that Holden had raised many red flags in days leading up to the crime.
The Charter spokesperson commented: “The plaintiff’s claims of wrongdoing by Charter are categorically false.” The spokesperson added that the company performed a thorough pre-employment criminal background check on Holden, and that it “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.”
Read more at the Wall Street Journal here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan