In Murdaugh case settlement, boat crash victim Mallory Beach's family to get $15 million

The family of a 19-year-old woman who was killed in a boat crash in 2019 will receive $15 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the gas station and convenience store chain accused of selling alcohol to an underage boater.

Mallory Beach died after the collision involving a boat owned by former South Carolina attorney Richard "Alex" Murdaugh, who was sentenced to life in prison this year after being convicted of murdering his wife and son Paul Murdaugh.

Paul Murdaugh was allegedly driving the boat while intoxicated when it crashed in Beaufort County, South Carolina, in February 2019.

The lawsuit, which names Alex Murdaugh, Gregory M. Parker and his Parker's Corporation, said Parker's convenience store is liable for making an illegal sale of alcohol to the then-underage Paul Murdaugh and for failing to verify his ID or check that it matched the name on the credit card he used to pay for the alcohol.

Mark Tinsley, an attorney for Beach's family, confirmed the settlement to the Greenville News, part of the USA TODAY Network, and said his clients want the settlement to send a message.

"It wasn't about the money, but that's a number that represents a level of accountability that they hope would make people who sell alcohol take their responsibility seriously and keep it out of the hands of minors," Tinsley said. "The Beach family didn't want this settlement confidential because they want other Greg Parkers to know that if you sell alcohol illegally, you will be held accountable."

Mallory Beach was killed in a boat crash in Beaufort County, South Carolina, in February 2019.
Mallory Beach was killed in a boat crash in Beaufort County, South Carolina, in February 2019.

What does the lawsuit claim?

Beach's mother, Renee Beach, filed the first version of the wrongful death lawsuit in March 2019. Several parties were named in the original suit, but most of them settled earlier.

According to court documents, Paul Murdaugh purchased beer from a Parker's store using a driver's license belonging to his brother. Murdaugh is accused of condoning Paul's drinking and reckless boating.

"Tears were shared in our room with the Beaches this afternoon. They feel like they have honored Mallory by not walking away when it would have been easier to give up," Tinsley said. "They've been attacked, accused and blamed. From an emotional standpoint, there's a lot of vindication in this settlement."

Settlement halts trial, but case is ongoing

Paul Murdaugh pleaded not guilty to criminal charges connected to the crash, but he was killed before he could stand trial. The charges against Paul Murdaugh were dropped after his death as a formality. But Robert Kittle, spokesperson for the South Carolina Attorney General's Office, said at the time the case remained open.

The settlement reached Sunday halts the trial, which had been scheduled for Aug. 14. Tinsley said the settlement does not stop the civil conspiracy and harassment case he has filed against Parker for the Beach family.

"We have not settled the conspiracy case against Greg Parker and the other people involved with their vile attacks against the Beach family and their quest to get justice. We intend to hold Greg Parker personally responsible in that lawsuit," Tinsley said.

Alex Murdaugh's lawyers have indicated he plans to settle his part of the Beach family’s wrongful death lawsuit. State agents have been investigating whether Murdaugh obstructed the criminal investigation into the boat crash.

Parker's attorneys say 'unfairness' led to settlement

The settlement doesn’t require the convenience store chain to admit responsibility in the case. On Friday, a judge refused to separate the chain from Alex Murdaugh and declined to move the case out of Hampton County.

A lawyer for the stores said Parker felt as if he had no choice but to settle because Alex Murdaugh and the chain would be tried together in the wrongful death suit.

“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 in a statement, adding he was disappointed Tinsley revealed details of the settlement before it could be approved by a judge.

Contributing: Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Murdaugh boat crash settlement: Mallory Beach family gets $15 million