Cable Company Ordered to Pay Over $7 Billion in Damages for “Systemic Safety Failures” After Employee Murders Elderly Customer in Home


Cable Company Ordered to Pay Over $7 Billion in Damages for “Systemic Safety Failures” After Employee Murders Elderly Customer in Home

In July 2022, a jury in Dallas County awarded $7 billion in punitive damages against a cable company for “systemic safety failures” that included allegedly failing to verify the employment history of an employee who later murdered an 83-year-old customer in her home, while an earlier jury verdict in June 2022 ordered the same company to pay 90 percent of $375 million in compensatory damages awarded to the victim’s family, according to a report from WFAA Channel 8 in Dallas, Texas.

WFAA reported that the jury verdicts found the cable company liable for the stabbing death of Betty Thomas by field technician Roy Holden Jr. in December 2019. Holden had visited Thomas at her house to help with a phone line, returned the next day in a cable company van even though he was off-duty, and stabbed her with a utility knife supplied by the company. After his arrest by police later that month, Holden pleaded guilty to the murder and was sentenced to life in prison in April 2021.

The complaint filed by the victim’s family claimed the cable company discontinued an employee screening program used by a previous owner after the business was bought in 2016, and Holden was allegedly hired without verification of his employment history, which would have shown he lied about his previous jobs. A review of Holden’s past employers “would have revealed firings for forgery, falsifying documents, and harassment of fellow employees, according to trial testimony,” WFAA reported.

A North Texas law professor explained in an additional report from WFAA that the cable company had a “heightened duty” to be careful in its hiring process since their employees enter the homes of customers and the company has to ensure the safety of homeowners. “The law imposes duties upon employers. The duty of care in a case like this is greater than the normal duty of care because employees are entering the home. The question then becomes – was that duty of care breached?” he asked.

“Employers have a duty of due diligence in hiring, and if their hiring practices cause harm to co-workers or members of the public, an employer can be sued for negligent hiring,” Attorney Lester Rosen, the founder of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), which is now a service offering of ClearStar, explained in his book titled The Safe Hiring Manual. “Implementing a Safe Hiring Program helps employers practice due diligence in their hiring,” said Rosen, a noted background check expert.

ClearStar is a Human Resources technology company specializing in background checks, drug tests, clinical tests, and occupational health screening for employment. ClearStar offers a variety of background check services that include education and employment verifications, personal reference checks, motor vehicle record searches, credit history searches, sex offender registry searches, and criminal records searches at the federal, state, and county levels. To learn more, contact ClearStar today.

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    Thomas Ahearn - Digital Content Editor

    Thomas Ahearn is a Digital Content Editor at ClearStar, a leading Human Resources (HR) technology company specializing in background, drug, and health screening for employment. He writes about a variety of topics in the background screening industry including "Ban the Box," class action lawsuits, credit reports, criminal records, drug testing, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), HR technology, identity theft and fraud, privacy, social media background checks, and workplace violence.

    At ClearStar, we are committed to your success. An important part of your employment screening program involves compliance with various laws and regulations, which is why we are providing information regarding screening requirements in certain countries, region, etc. While we are happy to provide you with this information, it is your responsibility to comply with applicable laws and to understand how such information pertains to your employment screening program. The foregoing information is not offered as legal advice but is instead offered for informational purposes. ClearStar is not a law firm and does not offer legal advice and this communication does not form an attorney client relationship. The foregoing information is therefore not intended as a substitute for the legal advice of a lawyer knowledgeable of the user’s individual circumstances or to provide legal advice. ClearStar makes no assurances regarding the accuracy, completeness, or utility of the information contained in this publication. Legislative, regulatory and case law developments regularly impact on general research and this area is evolving rapidly. ClearStar expressly disclaim any warranties or responsibility or damages associated with or arising out of the information provided herein.


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