Charter Communications must pay over $1.1 billion to the estate and family of an 83-year-old woman murdered in her home by a Spectrum cable technician, a Dallas County Court judge ruled yesterday.
A jury in the same court previously ordered Charter to pay $7 billion in punitive damages and $337.5 million in compensatory damages. Judge Juan Renteria lowered the award in a ruling issued yesterday.
The damages are split among the estate and four adult children of murder victim Betty Thomas. Renteria did not change the compensatory damages but lowered the punitive damages awarded to the family to $750 million. Pre-judgment interest on the damages pushes Charter's total liability to over $1.1 billion.
It isn't surprising that the judge lowered the payout, in which the jury decided punitive damages should be over 20 times higher than what Charter is liable for in compensatory damages. A nine-to-one ratio is often used as a maximum because of a 2003 US Supreme Court ruling that said: "In practice, few awards exceeding a single-digit ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, to a significant degree, will satisfy due process."
Former Spectrum technician Roy Holden pleaded guilty to the 2019 murder of customer Betty Thomas and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2021. Charter was accused of hiring Holden without verifying his employment history and ignoring a series of red flags about his behavior, which included stealing credit cards and checks from elderly female customers. (More details on the murder are in our previous two articles on the topic.)