Insurers to Pay $15M to Settle Murdaugh Fatal Boat Crash Claims

July 18, 2023

Insurers for the convenience store that sold beer to Paul Murdaugh have agreed to pay $15 million to settle the wrongful death suit stemming from the 2019 boat crash involving Murdaugh in which teenager Mallory Beach was killed.

The convenience store, Parker’s Kitchen, and its owner, Greg Parker, have maintained they did nothing wrong but their lawyer said insurers decided to settle because under South Carolina’s joint and several liability law they could face an even larger payout even if Parker’s was determined to be only partially at fault. Joint and several liability holds that any defendant in a civil case can be held liable for the full amount of damages, even if one party was more directly responsible than another.

Paul Murdaugh is the son of attorney Alex Murdaugh, a former prominent South Carolina attorney who in March was convicted of murdering his wife and Paul and is serving two life sentences.

The family of the 19-year old Beach sued Alex Murdaugh and Parker’s for wrongful death after their daughter died in the boat crash. The family claimed Paul was intoxicated and responsible for the crash. They alleged that Paul’s parents, Alex and Maggie Murdaugh, supported his underage drinking for years, and that Parker’s was negligent in selling alcohol to the underage Paul, who allegedly used his older brother’s license to buy beer.

Attorneys for Parker’s tried several times to separate their suit from Alex Murdaugh, concerned that the association with the former prominent and now imprisoned attorney would make it difficult for Parker’s to get a fair trial. But the court denied their motions.

Murdaugh’s insurers have declined to cover him for the boat crash and his assets are under state control. It’s unclear how much, if any, proceeds from the Murdaugh’s estate might be freed to go to the boat victims. Murdaugh still faces various indictments over insurance and financial fraud.

The $15 million settlement also covers claims brought by two others injured in the boat crash.

PK Shere, Parker’s attorney, said he believes the Murdaughs should have to carry the burden for any settlement but that Parker’s insurers feared they would pay even more if a jury decided it. A trial had been scheduled to begin in August.

“This case was never about that legal and valid sale nor was it about the repeated bad decisions that these young adults made that night,” Shere stated. “For Mark Tinsley [the Beach family attorney], it was all about using the Murdaughs’ bad actions and the unfair law of joint and several liability in South Carolina to make Parker’s pay for a verdict intended to punish the Murdaughs. Given the outsized publicity this case has received, being tethered to a convicted murderer all but ensured Parker’s would not receive a fair trial.”

Shere criticized the state’s law. “The application of the joint and several liability laws in South Carolina meant that, if Parker’s was found even 1% at fault, it would have paid for the entirety of any verdict rendered against the Murdaugh family. The unfairness of that caused Parker’s insurance carriers to resolve these suits to avoid paying the likely award intended to punish Alex Murdaugh. This marks the conclusion of all the boat crash cases. We sincerely hope that all involved parties will find some measure of closure.”

According to the Beach family’s lawyer, Tinsley, the case was not about the money; it was about following the law when it comes to the selling of alcohol. He told WSAV-TV that $15 million is a number that will have others take notice and “make sure to take their responsibility in the sale of alcohol seriously. And if you don’t follow the law, if you don’t follow the policies, if you don’t properly train you will be held to account for what happens. “