Corporate lawyers defending a high-profile wrongful death lawsuit tied to the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga are once again seeking to have the attorneys who brought the case thrown off of it.
Attorneys for wealthy Savannah, Georgia convenience store magnate Greg Parker have filed another motion in South Carolina circuit court seeking to remove attorney Mark Tinsley and his co-counsel, Tabor Vaux, from representing the family of the late Mallory Beach.
Tinsley and Vaux are representing the Beach family in a wrongful death case against convicted killer Alex Murdaugh as well as the increasingly infamous Parker and his company, the Parker’s Kitchen chain of gas stations.
Parker and his minions have engaged in an outright jihad in this case in the hopes of absolving him and his company of any blame for this tragedy. That jihad has spawned a second lawsuit tied to this case – filed in December 2021 – which focuses on the unauthorized disclosure of confidential mediation materials by those allegedly in Parker’s employ.
Tinsley and Vaux are representing the Beach family in a conspiracy lawsuit, too. In fact, the prior motions from Parker for their disqualification were actually filed in that case – but this week’s motion seeks their disqualification from representing the Beach family in the wrongful death action, which was filed more than four years ago.
To recap: Beach – a 19-year-old from Hampton, S.C. – perished in the early morning hours of February 24, 2019 in a totally avoidable boat crash.
She died after a 17-foot, center console Sea Hunt fishing boat owned by Alex Murdaugh – and allegedly piloted by the late Paul Murdaugh – slammed into a piling near the Archer’s Creek Bridge outside of Parris Island, S.C. Seconds before the boat crashed, GPS data obtained by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) indicated the vessel was traveling at a speed of approximately 29 miles per hour (or approximately 25 knots).
Upon impact, Beach was flung into the cold, dark waters. Her body was discovered a week later by fishermen.
Paul Murdaugh and others on the boat were in a “grossly intoxicated” state at the time of the crash, according to responding law enforcement officers. Despite alleged obstruction efforts by his father, Paul Murdaugh was eventually criminally charged in connection with the crash. He was murdered before he could stand trial, though. His father, Alex, was convicted of his murder – as well as the murder of his wife, 52-year-old Maggie Murdaugh – on June 7, 2021.
Incidentally, these murders were committed just three days before Alex Murdaugh was scheduled to appear in court to answer for his failure to provide financial records to the Beach family attorneys.
Tinsley’s lawsuit is viewed by many as the impetus for the collapse of the once-powerful “House of Murdaugh” – a family which ran the Palmetto Lowcounty like a fiefdom for nearly a century. Meanwhile, Beach’s death was the driving narrative in ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’ – the smash hit documentary that premiered on Netflix on February 22, 2023 and exposed the family and its dark secrets to an international audience.
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The latest attempted disqualification by Parker’s lawyers stated Tinsley should be tossed from the boat crash case based on his allegedly improper receipt and review of Parker’s privileged documents, his allegedly improper disclosure of privileged information and materials and his allegedly improper communications with a represented person in a related lawsuit. They further asked for Vaux to be disqualified based on his allegedly improper receipt and review of Parker’s privileged information.
The new motion (.pdf) by Parker’s lawyers was filed just a week after they submitted a flurry of paper in Hampton County, S.C. Notably, it comes after circuit court judge Daniel Hall – who is presiding over the wrongful death case – refused to dismiss Parker and his company from the boat crash case.
Embattled S.C. circuit court judge Bentley Price – who is presiding over the conspiracy lawsuit – issued an order last month regarding the alleged disclosure of confidential mediation materials sought by Tinsley and Vaux under subpoena. The documents in question were compiled by a private investigator named Sara Capelli and two companies owned by veteran South Carolina political operative Wesley Donehue. Parker’s attorneys previously argued these documents should be protected under attorney-client privilege.
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Last March, Price issued an order compelling Capelli and Donehue to produce their client files to Tinsley and Vaux within thirty days, Parker’s attorneys filed a motion for reconsideration. Following a phone conference, Price ordered all documents turned over to him for review – indicating once issues related to relevance and privilege were resolved, Parker’s would have ten days to respond with objections on the record and would have an opportunity to appeal any decision as normal.
Last April, Price’s law clerk sent an email directing all available documents be sent to Tinsley and Vaux within fifteen days without a privilege log – noting any objections from Parker’s counsel would be taken up prior to trial. Tinsley emailed Sandy Senn – Donehue’s attorney – and subsequently obtained the documents.
Parker’s attorneys insist Tinsley should have known the email from Price’s law clerk was not an enforceable order. After receiving the documents, Tinsley reviewed them in their entirety.
Parker’s has continued to argue the documents contained information that was attorney-client privileged. Last October, the state supreme court granted Parker’s a writ of mandamus, ordering Price to review the subpoenaed documents – and Parker’s privilege log – and to make specific findings as to each document.
Last month, Price entered an order making these required determinations – identifying more than 215 pages of privileged material. Parker’s attorneys claim it is “undisputed (that) both Tinsley and Vaux have received and reviewed a significant amount of Parker’s privileged material.”
“The cat’s out of the bag,” the judge said. “I mean, I can’t stuff the mashed potato [back] into the bag.”
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Parker’s attorneys further insist Tinsley should be disqualified for improper communications with Capelli – who was represented by counsel at the time she and the attorney exchanged multiple text messages. Communications between Tinsley and Capelli were included in the motion and imply Tinsley initiated communication with the private eye.
According to Parker’s attorneys, Tinsley was aware Capelli was represented by counsel – which would mean these communications violated Rule 4.2 of the South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct.
All of these issues will have to be resolved soon, as the wrongful death case is now just two months away. This case was originally scheduled to go to trial on January 9, 2023, but Hall delayed it due to Murdaugh’s pending double homicide trial. It was then scheduled for April 10, 2023, but one of Parkers’ attorneys – powerful S.C. House speaker Murrell Smith – invoked his “legislative immunity” (another blatant example of the favoritism extended by the state’s judicial branch to influential lawyer-legislators).
Barring a settlement – which seems highly unlikely at this point – the wrongful death case will go to trial on August 14, 2023 in Hampton County, S.C.
Count on this news outlet to be there …
THE MOTION …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Jenn Wood is FITSNews’ incomparable research director. She’s also the producer of the FITSFiles and Cheer Incorporated podcasts and leading expert on all things Murdaugh/ South Carolina justice. A former private investigator with a criminal justice degree, evildoers beware, Jenn Wood is far from your average journalist! A deep dive researcher with a passion for truth and a heart for victims, this mom of two is pretty much a superhero in FITSNews country. Did we mention she’s married to a rocket scientist? (Lucky guy!) Got a story idea or a tip for Jenn? Email her at [email protected].
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