A judge has reduced a $7 billion decision to closer to $1.15 billion in the case of an 83-year-old woman who was stabbed to death by a Charter technician in 2019. The court judge of Dallas County, Juan Renteria, did not say why he reduced the amount. in its decision (pdf). The company says it will appeal.
According to attorneys for the family of Betty Jo McClain Thomas, the massive award was awarded by a jury in July for two reasons: “systemic security failures that led to the robbery and stabbing death of an 83-year-old woman years by a cable repairman and for using falsified documents to try to prevent a jury from hearing the trial.
Jurors found Charter Spectrum tried to use fake document to force case into arbitration
Charter submitted a terms of service agreement that Thomas would have accepted and which would have been extracted from his database. However, the family’s attorneys argued that a closer look revealed that there were blank spaces where his name should have been, and although he claimed to represent a live database, he displayed a “localhost” address (localhost:62220/ViewContracts.aspx), indicating it was actually stored on someone’s personal computer.
As part of their decision, jurors said Charter tried to force the case into arbitration by using false documents.
As detailed in a previous report by USA today, Spectrum cable repairman Roy James Holden was sent to Thomas’ home on a service call to repair his fax machine. He later learned that the woman had reported ongoing problems with his service, then used his company’s key card to drive one of his vans home, where she caught him trying to steal her credit cards, and he murdered her.
Lawyers for the family argued that Charter failed to check Holden’s employment history, which would have revealed a history of dismissal for misconduct and forgery. Holden also contacted his supervisors in the days leading up to the murder asking for money and making written requests for help due to his financial distress, family issues, and mental state.
During the trial, attorneys for Thomas’ family presented evidence that Charter Spectrum technicians had been responsible for more than 2,500 thefts from customers over several years.
On January 3, 2020, after the murder, Charter sent Thomas an overdue invoice which included a one-time charge of $58.94 for the service call.
The court included a spoliation order with the jury’s instructions, asking them to note Charter’s destruction of evidence that should have been preserved, including video surveillance and tracking information for Holden, and found Charter guilty of contempt for failing to produce other documents which may have increased the amount of damages awarded.
“Responsibility for this horrific act rests solely with Mr. Holden, who was off duty, and we are grateful that he is in prison for life,” Charter spokesman Cameron Blanchard wrote in a statement. The edge. “While we respect the jury and the justice system, we strongly disagree with the verdict and will appeal.”
Days after the jury returned its $7 billion verdict in July (in addition to the $375 million in compensatory damages awarded in June), the company told investors it “expects to sue vigorously and the likelihood of a successful call”.