$7 Billion Verdict Awarded After Charter Spectrum Tried to Forge Documents in a Murder Case

A cable company has been ordered to pay over $7 billion in damages to the family of 83-year-old Texas grandmother Betty Thomas who was brutally stabbed to death in her home by a Spectrum employee in 2019.

via: The Verge

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

The explanation behind the staggering figure of the verdict goes well beyond the horrific crime committed. It also includes the company’s policies and responses to previous incidents of theft and an attempt to forge a document showing Thomas agreed to forced arbitration that would have limited potential damages to the amount of her last bill.

While assigning the $7 billion in exemplary damages for gross negligence, jurors decided that Charter tried to compel the case into arbitration using forged documents from Spectrum, its internet service provider. Charter tried to compel arbitration using a terms of service document they claimed Thomas had agreed to while signing up for service, which was supposedly pulled from its database.

During the trial, lawyers for the family pointed out a number of inconsistencies with the document. Those include dates on it that didn’t match with the times when it was supposedly pulled from Charter’s system and a blank spot where Thomas’ name should have been. In other cases, the company’s lawyers presented a different set of terms without the 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 very bottom, it shows the file address, which reads “localhost:62220/VewContracts.aspx.”

Localhost is a loopback address, representing 127.0.0.1, and means the request isn’t leaving the computer it started from or accessing any other network or database at all.

A USA Today report from earlier this month outlines the murder, committed by a Spectrum cable repairman who returned to Thomas’ home the day after being sent for a service call to fix her fax machine. Lawyers representing Thomas’ family argued in court that the technician, Roy James Holden, learned the woman had reported ongoing issues with her service, then used his company key card to drive one of its vans to her house, where she caught him attempting to steal her credit cards, and he murdered her.

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