CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Ray Khirallah delivering his closing argument
Dallas, TX - A Texas state court jury saddled cable company Charter Communications, also known as Spectrum, with a $375 million verdict on Thursday after finding the company negligently hired a field technician who killed an elderly woman in her home following a service visit.
The Dallas County jury returned their verdict following a trial that began on June 8 in a lawsuit filed by the family of 83-year-old Betty Thomas, who died in 2019 after Charter employee Roy James Holden robbed her and then stabbed her to death.
The jury found Charter 90 percent liable for Thomas’ death while also teeing up a second phase of the trial starting next week to determine punitive damages. The full trial was webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network, and the pending punitive phase will also be streamed live and on-demand by CVN.
Holden initially arrived at Thomas’ home to help with her Spectrum phone line. He returned the next day while off the clock, but wearing his company uniform and driving his company van, and stabbed Thomas to death using a company-issued knife.
Thomas’ family claimed Charter failed to perform an adequate background check on Holden, which their attorneys argued would have shown he largely fabricated his work history, and that requests to supervisors for more work hours and personal loans should have raised red flags that he posed a danger to customers.
Charter argued during the trial that Holden, who is currently serving a lifetime prison sentence for the murder, was solely responsible for Thomas' death, and that the company should not be held liable. They claimed Holden a positive record of customer reviews and maintained the company should not be held liable for actions Holden took while off duty and without the awareness or assistance of anyone at the company.
Charter reiterated that position in a statement released to the media after the jury returned its verdict.
“Our hearts go out to Mrs. Thomas’ family in the wake of this senseless and tragic crime,” the statement read. “The responsibility for this horrible act rests solely with Mr. Holden, 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 plan to appeal.”
CVN screenshot of defense attorney Edward Davis delivering his closing argument
During the trial, attorneys from the firm Hamilton Wingo LLP, who represented plaintiffs, told jurors that Charter supposedly adopted a company-wide policy of skirting background checks in the wake of a hiring surge following their acquisition of Time Warner Cable.
“A cursory review of [Holden’s] previous employers would have revealed firings for forgery, falsifying documents and harassment of fellow employees,” the plaintiff attorney team stated in a news release issued after verdict came in.
Charter was represented by Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, one of the largest defense firms in the United States. The company sought to bar the news media from filming the public trial proceedings, but their objections were overruled by Judge Juan Renteria.
The second trial phase to determine punitive damages begins Monday, and CVN’s webcast will continue for the duration of the proceedings.
The plaintiffs were represented by Ray Khirallah and Chris Hamilton of Hamilton Wingo LLP.
Charter is represented by Edward Davis and Luke Davis of Lewis Brisbois and Michael Bassett of The Bassett Firm.
The case is captioned Goff v. Charter Communications Inc., et al., case number CC-20-01579-E in Dallas County Court.
E-mail David Siegel at email@example.com