A Texas jury has found that Charter owes $7 billion in punitive damages involving the stabbing death of an elderly Charter customer by a company internet installer in 2019, according to a report published by legal news website Law360.
The employee, Roy James Holden Jr., was arrested and confessed to the crime, in which he stabbed the customer, Betty Jo McClain Thomas, and stole her credit cards. According to court documents, Holden had been to Thomas’ home for a service call the previous day, then returned the following day in a van with Charter’s Spectrum brand on it while he was off duty.
The jury also found that Charter knowingly or intentionally forged an arbitration agreement that it tried to use to force Thomas’ family to bring their claims out of court, an attorney for Thomas’ family told Law360.
In a previous phase of the trial, the jury found that the company had been grossly negligent in hiring Holden without looking into his employment history. The family’s attorney argued that if the company had looked into his employment history, it would have found that he had been fired for forgery, falsifying documents and harassing another employee, Law360 reports.
The jury decided that Charter was 90% responsible for the 2019 robbery and stabbing and that Holden was responsible for 10% of the crime. As a result, the jury found that Thomas and her family were owed $375 million in compensatory damages, making Charter’s share of those damages $337.5 million.
Charter gave Law360 a statement saying that the responsibility for the “senseless and tragic” crime rests solely with Holden and that the company will appeal the verdict.
The company noted that a pre-employment criminal background check on Holden showed no arrests, convictions or other criminal behavior.