Murdaughs

Mallory Beach Boat Crash Case: Settlement Agreement Reveals Litigation Is Far From Over

“Universal settlement” wasn’t so universal after all …

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Details of a court settlement stemming from the fatal, fateful 2019 boat crash that took the life of 19-year-old Mallory Beach of Hampton, South Carolina are surfacing via a settlement petition filed with the Hampton County clerk of court’s office. In addition to outlining specifics about who is paying – and who is getting paid – the filing seeks a stay of the high-profile civil trial that was scheduled to begin on August 14, 2023 in Hampton.

The specific terms and conditions of this agreement matter a great deal – because while a $15 million deal has been approved between the two main parties to this dispute, this document (.pdf) made it clear other parts of the case are far from settled.

In the dark, early morning hours of February 24, 2019, a violent collision threw Beach from a fishing boat she and five friends were traveling on as they made their way home following a night of drinking and partying. When the boat slammed into a piling of the Archer’s Creek Bridge outside of Parris Island, S.C. – traveling at an estimated 29 miles per hour (or 25 knots) – all aboard were injured except for the pilot, the late Paul Murdaugh.

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Four passengers – and Murdaugh – made it out of the water. Beach did not. Her body was discovered a week later by fishermen.

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. And despite alleged obstruction efforts by his father, Alex Murdaugh – the owner of the boat – Paul Murdaugh was eventually hit with multiple criminal charges in connection with the incident.

Those charges – and a civil suit filed on March 29, 2019 by Beach’s family – initiated a series of events that brought down the once-powerful “House of Murdaugh,” a family legal dynasty which ran the Palmetto Lowcountry like a fiefdom for nearly a century.

Individuals who have closely monitored the ensuing chaos – including investigators, prosecutors and Beach family attorney Mark Tinsley – believe the boat crash was the catalyst for the unraveling of Alex Murdaugh‘s myriad financial schemes. They also believe it was the underlying motive for Paul and Maggie Murdaugh‘s brutal murders in June 2021.

(Click to View)

Captain Jason Chapman of the Colleton County sheriff’s office lowers a sheet over the body of Paul Murdaugh on the evening of June 7, 2021. (S.C. Fourteenth Circuit)

Murdaugh was convicted of those murders in March of this year and remains behind bars awaiting the filing of his appeal – as well as trials on a plethora of additional state and federal charges, crimes that might never have seen the light of day had it not been for that fateful, deadly boat crash.

In other words, the crash was the impetus for the ‘Murdaugh Murders’ crime and corruption saga.

The boat crash (and the death of Beach) was also the central theme of ‘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.

For so many followers of the Murdaugh saga, the boat crash was their introduction to this family – and the latest filing makes it clear this portion of that story will continue for some time to come.

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THE MONEY …

Savannah convenience store magnate Greg Parker – owner of the Parker’s Kitchen chain of gas stations – proposed a $15 million settlement be paid from his three layers of insurance with policy limits totaling $21 million. Parker and his company became parties to this lawsuit because of alcohol sales made on February 23, 2019 and February 24, 2019 to an underage Paul Murdaugh.

“It is alleged that Paul drank the alcohol that Parker’s clerk sold him and became grossly intoxicated, which caused him to crash the boat into the pilings,” the settlement noted.

This is also the basis for a claim against the estate of Maggie Murdaugh, the mother of Paul and Buster. Her estate offered $517,892 – and proceeds from the sale of her 2021 Mercedes – to settle with survivors.

(Click to View)

Defense attorney Phillip Barber cross-examines witness Mark Tinsley, Allendale attorney, in the double murder trial of Alex Murdaugh at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Andrew J. Whitaker/The Post and Courier/Pool

The only beneficiaries named in the settlement petition, aside from the charitable organization Mal’s Palz, were Philip Beach and Renee Beach – the parents of Mallory Beach.

Attorneys for the Beach family – Tinsley, Tabor Vaux and John Nichols – are in line to receive sizable checks when the agreement is approved. Total legal fees from the settlement would amount to $5,172,630 and would be divided as follows: $3,591,973 to Gooding & Gooding, Tinsley’s firm; $1,200,657 to Vaux Marscher Berglind, Vaux’s firm; and $250,000 to Nichol’s firm, Bluestein Thompon Sullivan. The petition also earmarked $130,000 for Mal’s Palz, the aforementioned charity which was created in Beach’s memory to pay tribute to her life and love of animals.

No details regarding settlements reached with other boat crash victims were contained in the agreement – and as of this writing, attorney Joe McCulloch (who represents Connor Cook) said no deal had been reached with his client.

Initial reports indicated surviving passengers from the crash were in line to receive $1.1 million (Morgan Doughty), $1 million (Connor Cook), $1 million (Anthony Cook) and $400,000 (Miley Altman). However, as we noted at the time those numbers were not “set in stone.”

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ALEX AND THE OUTRAGE …

The settlement petition filed with the court on July 27, 2023 further asked the court to continue the trial scheduled to begin on August 14, 2023 and stay any further litigation.

“A continuance and stay would best serve everyone involved and promote judicial efficiency,” it noted.

As for Murdaugh, the petition asked the court to “continue the remaining claims against Richard Alexander Murdaugh” but to stay the matter until the court-appointed receivers in charge of his assets had submitted a “petition for the administration and liquidation of the receivership funds.”

In other words, while Parker and Maggie Murdaugh’s estate would be released from any further claims in the wrongful death suit, the case against Alex Murdaugh would proceed.

Likewise, a civil outrage case brought by the Beach family against Parker, his attorneys and private investigators remains very much in play. This lawsuit – filed in December 2021 – focuses on the unauthorized disclosure of confidential mediation materials by those allegedly in Parker’s employ.

The proof of alternate dispute resolution filed in the civil conspiracy case Beach v. Parker stated the parties were at an impasse – and noted parties to the case and five others were involved in the mediation of another case on the same day, July 20, 2023.  It further stated all five cases were at an impasse and proof of ADR would be submitted in all five.  

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THE PETITION …

(Via: S.C. Fourteenth Circuit)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Callie Lyons (Provided)

Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher, and author whose investigative work can be found in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world – most recently in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a German documentary for ProSieben. Lyons also appears in Citizen Sleuth – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.

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