Cable Giant Charter Will Pay $1.1 Billion After Tech Murders Elderly Customer

from the maybe-don't-murder-your-customers dept

Back in the early aughts, when I wrote exclusively about the broadband sector, you literally couldn’t go a week without a story about a cable broadband technician  falling asleep on the jobblowing up homesoccasionally murdering people or getting arrested for torturing and spray painting kittens.

The problem was several fold: one, these companies’ executives were so fixated on growth for growth’s sake and pleasing Wall Street, they routinely failed to scale their investment into customer service. They also really adored using a series of low-quality, low-cost subcontractors both for the cost savings, and because the layered proxy relationships often offered reduced liability for fuck ups.

US cable broadband customer service has improved some in the years since, though the sector still has some of the lowest customer service ratings in any industry in America (think about the competition the sector has for that title, for a moment).

Case in point: a court ruling this week required that Charter Communications (which uses the brand name Spectrum) will have to pay $1.1 billion dollars after a Charter tech murdered an 83-year-old woman in her home after trying to steal her credit cards.

The lawsuit claims Charter weakened its screening process during its merger with Time Warner Cable:

According to the complaint, brought by the victim’s family, Charter got rid of an employee screening program put in place by Time Warner Cable when Charter purchased the MSO in 2016.

The plaintiffs also said that a cursory look at Holden’s background would have revealed his history of firings for forging documents and harassing coworkers.

The case also revealed that Charter apparently forged a document to try and force the family away from the courts and into binding arbitration:

The jury also found that “Charter knowingly or intentionally committed forgery with the intent to defraud or harm Plaintiffs,” Renteria wrote. The family’s attorney previously said that “Charter Spectrum attorneys used a forged document to try to force the lawsuit into a closed-door arbitration where the results would have been secret and damages for the murder would have been limited to the amount of Ms. Thomas’s final bill.”

On the plus side, $1.1 billion is a lot lower than the whopping $7.37 billion Charter was originally on the hook for. Charter says it plans to appeal, claiming the “crime was not foreseeable.” And while the lawsuit states the tech had been fired several times for forging documents and harassing coworkers, Charter claims a criminal background check “showed no arrests, convictions, or other criminal behavior.”

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Companies: charter

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Comments on “Cable Giant Charter Will Pay $1.1 Billion After Tech Murders Elderly Customer”

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12 Comments
Roy Holden Jr. says:

And while the lawsuit states the tech had been fired several times for forging documents and harassing coworkers, Charter claims a criminal background check “showed no arrests, convictions, or other criminal behavior.”

Look, Ms. Thomas was old and on her way out anyways, so killing her wasn’t murder, it was euthanasia. And forgery’s not a crime unless you’re convicted of it, so just let it go, yeah?

OGquaker says:

So What? A Chapter 11 get out of jail card awaits (not for you or I)

In 1996, the Sizzler chain entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy with 680 restaurants, $937m in yearly sales, $272m in cash and $98m in liabilities, not counting the 130 landlords now stuck with a vacant KFC or Sizzler building the landlord had built with their own money.
4,600 employees were fired in one day.

JoeCool2 (profile) says:

Fines aren't fine

Even if this doesn’t get reduced on appeal, Charter will simply pass this on to customers who have no choice but to pay the bill. That’s why they’re so bad to begin with. Nothing will change as long as companies continue to maintain a monopoly like status and are only fined. To make a real change, companies need to be broken up, and execs need to do real prison time. Anything else will be laughed off as captive customers foot the bill.

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