The family of Mallory Beach have won a multi-million-dollar settlement after their 19-year-old daughter was killed in a crash aboard a boat owned by Alex Murdaugh, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing his own wife and son.
Authorities believe that Murdaugh’s slain son, Paul Murdaugh, was driving the boat under the influence of alcohol when he steered into a bridge piling in 2019. He was 19 at the time, and thus under the legal drinking age in the U.S.
Paul was charged with three criminal counts for the crash, including boating under the influence causing death, to which he pleaded not guilty. He was awaiting trial when his father killed him in 2022.
There were six people aboard the boat the night of the accident, all underage: Paul and his girlfriend Morgan Doughty, Beach and her boyfriend Anthony Cook, and Anthony’s cousin Connor Cook and Connor’s girlfriend Miley Altman. Beach died in the crash and the five others were all hospitalized.
All the survivors except Paul testified that he was behind the wheel that night. When authorities conducted a blood test shortly after the crash, Paul registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.24, three times over the legal limit. There was also a beer-filled cooler onboard his father’s boat.
The US$15 million ($20 million) settlement slated for Beach’s family won’t be paid by the Murdaugh family, however, but by the store chain that sold Paul alcohol.
Paul allegedly used the ID of his older brother, Buster Murdaugh, to buy beer that night from Parker’s Kitchen, a convenience store. An attorney for Beach’s family said the settlement serves as a warning for other alcohol retailers that they are liable when minors purchase their products illegally.
“The Beach family believes this settlement will serve as a warning to all the Parker’s of the world, who might make an illegal sale of alcohol to a minor, that they will be held to account for their wrongful conduct if they do,” said Mark Tinsley.
Meanwhile, a lawyer for Parker’s Kitchen said the franchise’s insurers decided to settle the case because they feared having to pay an even higher sum if they went to trial due to the infamy of the Murdaugh family.
On Friday, a judge refused to separate the case against Parker’s Kitchen from the case against Murdaugh in the wrongful death lawsuit for Beach. Under South Carolina law, even if the jury found Parker’s Kitchen was only 1 per cent responsible, since Murdaugh is now nearly broke, the chain with its deeper pockets would likely have to pay nearly the entire settlement.
“The unfairness of that caused Parker’s insurance carriers to resolve these suits to avoid paying the likely award intended to punish Alex Murdaugh,” attorney P.K. Shere said.
Parker’s Kitchen also agreed to settlements with the four other teens who survived the crash, lawyers said.
Murdaugh was found guilty of fatally shooting his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, on March 2 — though he still maintains his innocence.
Murdaugh told investigators who arrived while the bodies were still on the ground that he wondered if the anger toward his son over the boat crash led to the killings. But prosecutors said they were instead a sinister, methodical plan to buy time to straighten out his finances and derail the wrongful death suit over the boat crash.
Prosecutors at his double murder trial said Murdaugh worried financial disclosures in the boat crash suit would show he was stealing millions from clients and his law firm for a decade.
State agents have been investigating whether Murdaugh obstructed the criminal investigation into the boat crash. No charges have yet been announced.
— with files from The Associated Press