Charter Communications says it will appeal a $7.3 billion judgment awarded by a Texas jury earlier this week in the case of an 83-year-old woman who was murdered by a cable installer.
In a statement to the tech publication Fierce Telecom, a Charter spokesperson said the case as presented lacked details that showed the cable company could have predicted the technician would murder Betty Thomas, a resident of Irving, and that Charter — which offers telecom services under the Spectrum brand — should not be held liable at all for the woman’s death.
“The law in Texas and the facts presented at trial clearly show this crime was not foreseeable, and the plantiffs’ claims of wrongdoing by Charter are categorically false,” a Charter spokesperson told the website.
In 2019, Thomas called her local Spectrum office to request a cable technician for an unknown problem with her service. The office sent Roy Holden, Jr. to her home to perform the work.
That should have been the end of their interaction, except Holden returned to Thomas’ home the next day to steal her debit cards. He later told detectives that he attempted to rob the home because he was broke and hungry.
During the theft, Thomas confronted Holden, and he stabbed her with a utility knife. She died from her injuries. The utility knife was reportedly issued to Holden by Charter in connection with his work as a cable installer.
Last year, Holden was sentenced to life in prison after he entered a guilty plea in the criminal case. A separate civil case was brought against Holden and Charter by Thomas’ relatives, who alleged the cable company should have known Holden was a ticking time bomb because he had made prior statements about his financial distress and family problems.
“[Charter] had too many chances to prevent this tragedy, and the company showed a complete disregard for the safety of its customers,” Ray Khirallah, an attorney representing the Thomas family, said in a statement.
Charter countered that statement by saying it performed a deep criminal background check on Holden before he was employed, and that his “performance after he was hired” did not indicate any criminal intention. He also went on over 1,000 service calls without any customer complaints, Charter said.
The Texas jury overseeing the civil case spent 11 days considering the matter before finding Charter and Holden jointly liable for Thomas’ death. They initially awarded the family $375 million, with Charter on the hook for $337.5 million of that award. This week, they added an extra $7 billion in exemplary damages, again with Charter liable for most of the award.
Charter said Holden was not on duty when he committed the crime, and that the company could not have known he would later take a life.
“Our hearts go out to Mrs. Thomas’ family in the wake of this senseless and tragic crime,” a spokesperson for the company said. “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.”
The spokesperson went on to say that they respected the justice system and the jury, but they disagreed with the verdict. It was not clear when Charter plans to file the appeal.