A $7 billion verdict handed down after Charter Spectrum tried to forge documents in a murder case

A jury in Texas this week found Charter Communications liable for $7 billion in punitive damages resulting from a lawsuit by the family of Betty Jo McClain Thomas, an 83-year-old woman who was stabbed to death by one of her employees in December. was. That’s $7 billion in addition to the $375 million in compensatory damages assigned in June 2019.

The explanation behind the staggering statistic of the verdict goes far beyond the gruesome crime committed. It also includes company policies and responses to past incidents of theft and attempts to create a document showing that Thomas agrees to forcible arbitration that will result in potential damages limited to the amount of his final bill.

Evidence presented by charter to bind arbitration.
Image: Dallas County, Texas Court Portal

Allocating $7 billion in exemplary damages for gross negligence, jurors decided that Charter attempted to force the case into arbitration by using forged documents from its Internet service provider Spectrum. Charter tried to force arbitration by using a terms of service document they claimed Thomas had agreed to when signing up for the service, which it believed was pulled from its database.

During the trial, lawyers for the family pointed out several inconsistencies with the document. They include dates on it that did not match the time when it was supposed to be from the system of charter and a blank space where Thomas’ name should have been. In other cases, the company’s attorneys presented a different set of conditions without an arbitration clause.

While the documents were supposed to represent evidence taken from Charter’s live database, they showed an address indicating that the file was actually stored on someone’s personal computer. At the bottom, it shows the file address, which reads “localhost:62220/VewContracts.aspx”.

localhost is a loopback address, representing, and means that the request is not leaving the computer it started or is not reaching any other network or database at all.

a United States of America today Reports from earlier this month outlined a murder committed by a spectrum cable repairman who had returned to Thomas’ home, sent for a service call to fix his fax machine. Lawyers representing Thomas’ family argued in court that the technician, Roy James Holden, learned that the woman had reported ongoing issues with his service, then asked his company to take one of his vans to his home. card, where he caught her trying to steal it. her credit cards, and he murdered her.

Charter spectrum bill sent to Betty Thomas in 2020

Charter spectrum bill sent to Betty Thomas in 2020

On January 3, 2020, Charter sent Thomas an overdue bill that included a one-time fee of $58.94 for the service call.

The jury found the charter to be a proximate cause of Thomas’ death, implying that the company committed an act or omission “that the person using ordinary care would have presumptively caused the injury, or some similar injury.” Can go,” and assigned it 90 percent. responsibility. Plaintiffs’ lawyers pointed to Charter’s failure to conduct a background check, which would have led to Holden lying about his work history, and presented evidence that he repeatedly sought help from supervisors and management because of personal problems, and told him that he thought at one point he was a Dallas Cowboys player.

Holden admitted to committing the murder, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in April 2021.

In addition, lawyers for Thomas’ family presented evidence that Charter Spectrum Technology was responsible for more than 2,500 thefts against customers in the years before the murder, and said the company declined to investigate or report the police. . The court included a plundering order with the instructions of the jury, based on the destruction of evidence of the charter that should have been preserved, including video surveillance and tracking information for Holden, and the production of other documents to the charter. Found guilty of contempt for failing to do so.

In a statement issued after the verdict, Charter spokeswoman Cameron Blanchard said:

In the wake of this senseless and tragic crime, our hearts go out to the family of Mrs Thomas. The responsibility for this horrific act rests entirely with Mr. Holden, who was not on duty, and we are grateful that he is in prison for the rest of his life. While we respect the jury and the justice system, we strongly disagree with the verdict and will appeal.

The facts presented at the Texas Law and Trial clearly show that the crime was not foreseeable—and plaintiffs’ claims of wrongdoing by charter are clearly false. We are committed to protecting all of our customers and have taken the necessary steps, including a thorough pre-employment criminal background check – which shows no arrests, convictions or other criminal behavior. Nor was there anything in Mr. Holden’s performance after his hiring that he was capable of for the guilt he had committed, which included more than 1,000 full service calls with zero customer complaints about his behavior.

On Friday morning, Charter released its earnings results for the second quarter of 2022, reporting $13.6 billion in revenue, “primarily driven by growth in residential, mobile and commercial revenues.” Its press release did not mention the case or the verdict, and a transcript of its earnings call posted to Seeking Alpha shows that analysts did not ask executives about it. A 10-Q document filed with the SEC mentioned this under the Contingency Section.

The Company has considered various factors including the legal and factual circumstances of the case, the record of the case, the jury’s decision, the status of the proceedings, applicable law, the views of the legal counsel, court decisions before and during the trial. With the forthcoming post-trial motions of the parties in determining the various grounds for appeal, the Company is expected to proceed strongly and have the potential for a successful appeal. Based on these factors, the Company has concluded that the damages from this case are not probable and reasonably anticipated. Therefore, the Company has not acquired any liability for adverse judgments in its financial statements as of June 30, 2022.

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