Experienced Texas trial attorney Brad Jackson of The Law Offices of Brad Jackson in Dallas has helped the family of an elderly murder victim win a $7.3 billion negligence and punitive damage verdict against telecommunications giant Charter Communications Inc. The verdict represents one of the five largest jury awards in U.S. history.
Mr. Jackson represented the three adult daughters and the estate of Betty Jo Thomas, 83, alongside trial attorneys Chris Hamilton and Ray Khirallah of Dallas’ Hamilton Wingo.
The jury awarded $375 million in compensatory damages against Charter, which does business as Spectrum, on June 23 in Dallas County Court at Law No. 5 after finding the company was 90 percent responsible Ms. Thomas’ death. Charter/Spectrum technician Roy Holden Jr., 45, was found 10 percent responsible.
Stabbing Death Leads to Historic Verdict
Mr. Holden visited Ms. Thomas’ home in Irving in December 2019 to repair a fax machine before he returned the next day in a Spectrum van under the pretense of performing additional repairs. He proceeded to brutally stab Ms. Thomas to death with a Charter/Spectrum-issued utility knife before leaving with her credit cards and going on a spending spree. Jurors heard how Mr. Holden had previously scammed other elderly women by stealing credit cards and checks while on service calls.
Evidence showed that Mr. Holden had been fired from previous jobs for forgery, falsifying documents, and harassing fellow employees, although Charter/Spectrum never attempted to confirm his prior employment. If it had, the company would have learned that Mr. Holden had fabricated the employment history on his job application.
One week before the murder, Mr. Holden told supervisors he was suffering severe personal problems and financial issues, even crying in a meeting and telling a supervisor that he was “not OK,” yet Charter/Spectrum continued to send him into customers’ homes. He was sentenced to life in prison last year after pleading guilty to murder.
Jury Says Charter/Spectrum Used Forged Documents
Trial testimony showed that Charter/Spectrum failed to properly screen employees and stopped its pre-screening requirements in 2016 after acquiring Time Warner Cable. The jury also heard about the company’s negligent hiring practices and failure to address known warning signs of violence among employees and to control the off-duty use of company vehicles.
The award of $7 billion in punitive damages on July 28 in phase two of the trial followed additional evidence and a finding by the jury that Charter/Spectrum tried to use forged documents to force Ms. Thomas’ family to present their case in a non-public arbitration proceeding rather than to a jury in a public courtroom.