Judge OKs settlement in Mallory Beach lawsuit, Buster Murdaugh dropped as defendant

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As Alex Murdaugh’s trial in the murders of his wife and son begins, a portion of the Murdaugh saga came to a close Tuesday.

Circuit court judge Daniel Hall approved a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Mallory Beach, who was killed in a boat crash in 2019. The lawsuit had accused Alex Murdaugh’s son Paul of piloting the boat while drunk.

The settlement will result in Paul’s brother, Buster, and the estate of their his mother, Maggie, dropped as defendants from the lawsuit. The settlement is being mostly funded by the sale of Moselle, the Murdaughs’ hunting property, which is under contract to be sold for $3.9 million, according to Mark Tinsley, the attorney representing the Beach family.

“We are pleased with the court’s decision and feel like it was not only the best decision given the circumstances, but the only decision for all who had any real interest in the matter,” Tinsley said. “We also believe the ruling will help give some closure to the people who so desperately deserve it.”

The settlement leaves Alex Murdaugh and Gregory Parker, the owner of Parker’s Kitchen convenience stores, as the main remaining defendants. The lawsuit accuses Murdaugh of negligence in enabling his son Paul’s drinking. Parker was named as a defendant because one of his clerks sold the underage Paul the beer that began a night of the boat crash, according to the lawsuit. The case is expected to go to trial in August.

The settlement was approved after a Jan. 19 hearing brought last minute drama when John Parker, Alex Murdaugh’s former law partner, opposed the proposed settlement. In a court filing, Parker argued that in November 2021 he was awarded a confession of judgment against Murdaugh for $477,000 following an unpaid loan.

Alex Murdaugh’s trial on charges he murdered Maggie and Paul began this week and prosecutors say the wrongful death lawsuit played a key role in Murdaugh’s alleged motive to murder his wife and son. In court, lead prosecutor Creighton Waters has said that litigation following the crash threatened to expose an alleged web of lies that Murdaugh built to hide a decade of financial crimes.

Buster was named in the lawsuit because he allegedly allowed Paul to use his driver’s license to buy alcohol on the night of the boat crash, according to the lawsuit.

According to the settlement, $530,000 from the sale of the 1,772-acre hunting estate where Paul and Maggie Murdaugh were killed on the night of June 7, 2021, will go to Buster.

“The Beach family feels like Buster had suffered enough, and it was important to get Buster out of the lawsuit,” Tinsley previously told The State.

Roughly $700,000 will go to settle the various outstanding debts and legal claims of Maggie Murdaugh’s estate. But the balance will go to Tinsley, on behalf of Mallory Beach’s family and two other survivors of the boat crash, Morgan Doughty and Miley Altman

The terms of the settlement will divide up the proceeds of the sale. Other beneficiaries include:

$12,305.28 for John Marvin Murdaugh, Alex’s brother, for personal funds that he advanced to the estate.

$6,511.52 to Laura Jones, LLC, a creditor to the estate.

$25,000 to resolve an outstanding creditor claim held by Palmetto State Bank.

$100,000 to Connor Cook, a survivor of the 2019 boat crash, to release a claim he has made against Buster Murdaugh.

$275,000 for the court-appointed receivers’ account.

$290,000 to settle Maggie Murdaugh’s estate’s legal expenses.

John Marvin Murdaugh, who represented the estate, agreed to waive his fee as a gesture of “good faith.”

Maggie’s 2021 Mercedes SUV will be signed over to Tinsley, who is authorized to sell the car and disburse the proceeds to his clients, who include the Beach family. Tinsley said he valued the used vehicle at $75,000.

The sale of the estate “certainly does not accrue to the benefit of Alex Murdaugh,” according to the filed documents.

In agreeing to the settlement now, the parties hoped to avoid a drawn out and complex fight, including litigation over whether Murdaugh fraudulently transferred to the property to his wife in 2016.

However, were Murdaugh to be found guilty of murdering his wife, he would be excluded from inheriting any of her estate due to South Carolina’s “slayer statute.”

John Monk contributed reporting to this article.