Less than a month before it was scheduled to gavel to trial, the highest-profile civil case tied to the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga has settled out of court.
According to multiple sources familiar with the situation, a “global settlement” – meaning a settlement between all plaintiffs and all remaining defendants – was reportedly reached on Sunday afternoon. The deal – if approved – brings an end to the wrongful death lawsuit filed in 2019 by the family of the late Mallory Beach, a Hampton, South Carolina teen who died in a tragic boat crash in February of that year.
Initial reports indicate Beach’s family would receive $15 million from the agreement, while surviving passengers from the crash would receive $1.1 million (Morgan Doughty), $1 million (Connor Cook), $1 million (Anthony Cook) and $400,000 (Miley Altman), assuming they accept the agreement.
Attorneys representing those clients would receive between 35-40 percent of the settlement totals referenced above. Again, these totals are not set in stone, and the deal would have to be approved by S.C. circuit court judge Daniel Hall.
The remaining defendants in this case include convicted killer Alex Murdaugh – who owned the boat that crashed – and wealthy Savannah convenience store magnate Greg Parker and his company, the Parker’s Kitchen chain of gas stations. A Parker’s Kitchen store in Ridgeland, S.C. sold alcohol to Murdaugh’s son, the alleged driver of the boat.
Assuming the settlement goes through, there would be no trial in Hampton County, S.C. on August 14, 2023 as was previously scheduled. Last week, Hall denied a last-ditch motion to move the trial out of Beach’s hometown – which all but assured the outcome of the proceedings.
Hall’s venue decision prompted prominent Palmetto State attorney Bakari Sellers to predict an imminent settlement of the lawsuit.
“Case won’t see a trial,” Sellers tweeted. “That’s (Parker’s) last pebble. Will settle.”
Sellers turned out to be a prophet …
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 his late son, 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).
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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. In fact to quote the late Randolph Murdaugh III – one of three Murdaughs to hold the post of S.C. fourteenth circuit solicitor between 1920-2006 – Paul Murdaugh was “drunker than Cooter Brown” at the time of the crash. Despite alleged obstruction efforts by his father during the investigation into the crash, state prosecutors agreed with that assessment and charged Paul Murdaugh with three counts of boating under the influence.
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.
Lawyers Mark Tinsley and Tabor Vaux have represented the Beach family from the beginning of this case – which has already seen multiple defendants settle out of court. Tinsley and Vaux’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 Lowcountry like a fiefdom for nearly a century.
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“The crash began the unraveling of the Murdaugh empire,” reporter Valerie Bauerlein of The Wall Street Journal noted in her story. “(Beach’s attorneys) unearthed financial information that led to an inquiry into Alex Murdaugh’s alleged financial wrongdoing.”
Bauerlein, incidentally, penned one of the definitive pieces in this ongoing legal drama last August for the Journal – and is currently working on one of the most anticipated books related to the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ saga.
Beach’s tragic death was also 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.
As the legal battle wore on, Parker and his minions engaged in an outright war in the hopes of absolving himself and his company of any blame for this tragedy. The questionable tactics allegedly utilized by him and his team spawned a second lawsuit tied to this case – one filed in December 2021 which focuses on the unauthorized disclosure of confidential mediation materials by those allegedly in Parker’s employ.
This second lawsuit has not settled – although sources familiar with its latest negotiations indicate Tinsley could face similar scrutiny as it relates to the improper disclosure of mediation materials.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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