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Murdaugh Update: Boat Crash Legal Battle Ramps Up

Attorneys for Mallory Beach’s family claim documents used in “media campaign” cannot be considered privileged …

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Attorneys for the family of Mallory Beach – the Hampton, South Carolina teen who died in a tragic boat crash more than four years ago – have filed a motion in state court that could shake up the wrongful death case they have been pursuing (and a related conspiracy lawsuit).

Lawyers Mark Tinsley and Tabor Vaux are asking S.C. circuit court judge Bentley Price – who is presiding over the conspiracy case – to reconsider a recent ruling related to the alleged disclosure of confidential mediation materials sought by Tinsley and Vaux under subpoena.

Tinsley and Vaux are representing the Beach family in a wrongful death case against multiple parties including convicted killer Alex Murdaugh. Also named in their lawsuit? Wealthy Savannah, Georgia convenience store magnate Greg Parker and his company, the Parker’s Kitchen chain of gas stations.

The case seeks to assign blame in the fatal boat crash – and award damages.

Parker and his minions have engaged in an outright jihad in this case in the hopes of absolving him and his company of any culpability 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.

Parker’s attorneys have repeatedly sought to have Tinsley and Vaux dismissed from these lawsuits arguing they improperly received and reviewed privileged information and materials. Tinsley has also been accused of improperly disclosing privileged information – and engaging in improper communication with a party represented in one of the cases.

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Tinsley is pushing back hard against that contention, arguing the materials he received were part of a “media campaign” – and that their release to a public relations firm waived any privilege that may have previously attached to them.

To recap: Beach – a 19-year-old from Hampton, S.C. – perished in the early morning hours of February 24, 2019. 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 turn over financial records to Beach family attorneys. That hearing – which could have exposed Alex Murdaugh’s many alleged financial crimes – was canceled due to the deaths of Maggie and Paul.

This is one of many reasons why Tinsley’s wrongful death lawsuit is viewed 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 Murdaugh family and its dark secrets to an international audience.

(Click to View)

Wesley Donehue (Facebook)

As we previously reported, the documents in question related to this case were compiled by a private investigator named Sara Capelli and two companies owned by veteran South Carolina political operative (and self-proclaimed “knife-fighter”) Wesley Donehue. Parker’s attorneys previously argued these documents should be protected under attorney-client privilege.

Last April, though, Price’s law clerk sent an email directing them to be turned over to Tinsley and Vaux within fifteen days without a privilege log – noting that 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.

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 belatedly identified more than 215 pages of privileged material – although he appears uncertain as to how to handle the matter moving forward.

“The cat’s out of the bag,” Price said. “I mean, I can’t stuff the mashed potato [back] into the bag.” 

Tinsley and Vaux argued the so-called “privileged” documents stemmed from a media campaign organized by Donehue – and should not be considered part of Parkers’ litigation strategy. According to their latest filing, “even a legitimate media campaign is not a valid litigation strategy worthy of being, or remaining, privileged.”

They further argue the provision of the material to Donehue’s firm “waived any privilege that could attach to the information.”

(Click to View)

Mark Tinsley, Allendale-based personal injury attorney takes the stand in Alex Murdaugh’s trial for murder at the Colleton County Courthouse on Thursday, February 9, 2023. Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post and Courier/Pool

“Disclosures to public relations firms and social media ‘knife fighters’ are not deemed, and in fact are not being made, for the purpose of obtaining legal advice from a lawyer,” Tinsley and Vaux wrote. “These disclosures are not being made for the purpose of assisting with interpretation and analysis of facts by the lawyer in order to provide legal advice.”

The motion to reconsider also points out that one of the defendants in the conspiracy lawsuit — Jason D’Cruz — is not even an attorney of record in either of the cases resulting from the boat crash. The motion claims D’Cruz was instead “part of a surreptitious plan to launch a smear campaign through media and social media attacks” in the hopes of shifting “public sentiment about the Murdaughs and influencing the boat crash cases.”

The documents purportedly show that Greg Parker was coordinating and intimately involved in these plans to wage “faceless and nameless attacks in order to gain some public relations advantage.”

The documents further showed Greg Parker’s name was only removed and replaced by D’Cruz’s name – or the name of his firm – to fabricate an attorney/client privileged work product.

These issues will need 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 presiding judge Daniel 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).

As of this writing, the case is scheduled to be called on August 14, 2023 in Hampton County, S.C.

Count on this news outlet to be there …

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THE MOTION …

(Via: S.C. Fourteenth Judicial Circuit)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Jenn Wood (Provided)

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 jenn@fitsnews.com.

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1 comment

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The Colonel Top fan June 21, 2023 at 3:58 pm

Let me see if I understand. The idiots who agreed to represent Parker’s allowed information to be released they shouldn’t have and now Tinsley et al are to blame? Beach’s family shouldn’t be allowed to use any qualified representation they desire (Tinsley) just because Parker’s says so?
Yeah, right.

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