Warning: this blog involves a sensitive issue that may upset some readers.
In 2021, a former Spectrum cable technician was sentenced for life in prison for the tragic robbery and murder of an 83-year-old woman. The off-the-clock perpetrator gained entry into the woman’s home by pretending to be responding to a service call. In the aftermath of the incident, Spectrum’s parent company, Charter Communications, was sued by the victim’s family for alleged liability due to hiring practices.
Why Was Spectrum Held Liable for the Murder?
As tragic as this incident was, why was Spectrum held liable? According to news reports, the jury only took two hours of deliberation before reaching their conclusion. The reason they were held liable was due to alleged negligence in the hiring, retention, and supervision processes.
The family’s legal team alleged that the company had not done their due diligence to verify the perpetrator’s employment history before hiring him. Doing so would have shown that he misrepresented his prior work experience. Witnesses also alleged that “supervisors ignored a series of red flags” about the perpetrator. The employee was on a six-month disciplinary action plan at the time of the incident, and he had “written pleas to upper management for help because of severe distress over financial and family problems.” Additionally, it was alleged that the company had failed to report or investigate past employees involved in crimes against customers, and that the perpetrator’s “theft and crimes against the victim began while he was on duty.”
As a result, the company (which maintains that the perpetrator alone is liable for the incident), was held liable for over $7 billion in punitive damages. This amount was later lowered to $1.1 billion by a county court judge.
Spectrum's mistakes were in all likelihood not malicious. But the company unfortunately made several errors that every company should be careful to learn from.
The Mistakes Spectrum Made
When it comes to you and your business, it is beside the point whether Spectrum was rightly or wrongly held liable. Spectrum’s mistakes were in all likelihood not malicious. But the company unfortunately made several errors that every company should be careful to learn from. If you are a hiring manager or owner of a business, you do not want to be held liable for the actions of your employees!
As our full case study details, the main factors that contributed to the verdict were negligent hiring, retention, and supervision. Spectrum’s failure to verify the perpetrator’s past employment, report past alleged incidents, and properly monitor their employee led to the jury holding them partially liable for the murder.
Lessons To Apply To Your Business
Our case study goes into more detail, but here are a few ways you can avoid putting your company in a similar position.
Minimize negligent hiring, retention, and supervision exposures
Don’t cut any corners when it comes to hiring. Regardless of the position you are hiring for, implement vigilant hiring processes. Conduct sufficiently in-depth interviews, reach out to provided references, and have interviewees verify their past work experience. Additionally, make sure your prospective employees fit in with your company mission and culture. If you hire an employee, implement a training and supervision process that will help them succeed in their roles.
Take complaints or reports seriously
If you receive a complaint or concerning report about one of your employees, don’t brush it off. Take any necessary training or disciplinary actions to ensure that it does not happen again.
Hiring laws vary state-by-state. Regularly assess your processes to ensure that they comply with relevant state and national laws on hiring, retention, and supervision.
Secure proper liability coverage
If something were to happen to your company, you need to be prepared. Even if you follow rigorous hiring and supervision processes, you don’t want to be held liable if one of your employees commits a crime or mistakenly causes damage or injury. Liability insurance in Tennessee covers the any and all court costs, the cost of hiring an attorney for the duration of the case, and will also cover the award, if any is made.
A lack of proper employment practices not only jeopardizes your business. This case reveals that the primary concern is that it could endanger your clients or employees. If you are a business owner or hiring manager, make sure you are taking proper precautions to protect your clients, employees, and business.
Request the Full Case Study
This article is a summary of our full case study on the incident available by request. Fill out the form below to receive the full case study on the Spectrum liability lawsuit.