IRVING, Texas– Cable provider Charter Communications, a subsidiary of Spectrum Cable, was ordered by a jury to pay $7.3 billion in damages to the family of Betty Thomas for her 2019 murder by Spectrum Cable installer Roy Holden jr.
Holden jr., a cable installer for Spectrum, made a service call to Thomas’ home, where he returned the following day in his uniform and work van to kill and rob her. After the murder, he stole her credit card and went on a shopping spree.
The Thomas family argued the cable company failed to properly complete pre-employment screening and address issues about troubling behavior during his time with the company leading up to the murder.
The family was awarded $337 million in compensation, which is awarded to victims or their families as damages for wrongful death or suffering. Jurors also awarded the family $7 billion in punitive damages. Punitive damages are considered punishment and are awarded when a defendant’s behavior is found to be particularly harmful or egregious. While this astronomical dollar amount is reflective of how upset the jury was with the outrageous conduct of the cable company, punitive damages like this are almost always reduced by the Judge.
Are Employers Liable for Employees’ Bad Acts?
In some circumstances, a company may be lawfully accountable for the harm caused by its employees.
If a company’s employee injures someone while doing their job, carrying out company business, or acting on the employer’s behalf, the company may be held “vicariously” liable for the injuries their employee caused. The issue that is often present in these types of cases is whether the employee’s negligent conduct occurred in or out of the scope of their employment.
Example 1: A home repair company gives its employees a vehicle to make repair calls with. After work hours, an employee hits a pedestrian while using the company car to do personal errands. The company will most likely not be held responsible.
Example 2: A local pizzeria promises 30 minutes or less delivery, or the food is free. If a delivery person hits a pedestrian while driving to beat the deadline, the company will probably be legally responsible for the pedestrian’s injuries.
If a company’s employee engages in a criminal act or intentionally harms someone, they are often acting so far outside the scope of employment that employers are not generally held liable for such acts. There are some important exceptions, however. If the employer negligently hired, retained, or supervised an employee they knew or should have known presented a risk of engaging in such criminal or harmful conduct, then they may face liability.
Example 1: A trucking company hires a driver after successfully completing a background check that revealed no issues. While making a delivery, the driver is involved in a road rage incident and physically assaults another driver. The company will most likely not be held liable for their driver’s criminal conduct.
Example 2: A school fails to conduct a proper background check on an applicant for a custodial position. Shortly after being hired, the custodial worker sexually assaults a student. It turns out he had a criminal history of sexual offenses and was a registered sex offender. The school may likely be held liable for failing to do a proper background check.
Negligent Hiring or Retention
As discussed above, companies can be held liable due to negligent hiring and retention policies or lack thereof, like in the case with Charter Communications, which did not run a complete background on the employee who committed the murder.
If an employer hires an employee to perform a personal, customer-facing job and does not confirm past employment or criminal background, they may be liable if the employee causes foreseeable injury to customers. The reason liability can be assigned to the company is that the employer was careless in hiring a criminal for a job that the employer should have expected would expose others to harm.
Assaults at a Place of Business by Employees
As we discussed, businesses must ensure their employees will not cause injury to their customers or guests. If a company allows an employee to work for them and they have not reviewed their criminal or work history, they may be liable for injuries the employee causes. A company with an employee who has had physical confrontations with guests or customers and was allowed to continue employment may also show negligence by the employer.
The the following are some examples of businesses that might be responsible for your injuries for failing to provide reasonable security measures or remove potentially dangerous people:
- Hospitals or long-term care facilities (whether an employee or another patient committed the assault)
- Municipalities that operate public transportation (whether on a bus or train or at a terminal)
- Property owners
- Restaurant or bar owners (for acts of unruly patrons who should have been removed, the unlawful force used by a bouncer, or negligent security)
- Shopping or retail centers
- Hotel/motel operators
- Colleges or universities
If you believe you sustained injuries or harm due to negligent employers at any of the above businesses or by any that are not on this list, reach out to a skilled legal advisor today for counsel.
Call an Attorney if Someone’s Employee Injured You
If you or someone you know has been injured in a place of business or by an employee, contact our lawyers at Charles Boyk Law Offices for a free consultation of your case and to review your options.