Judge asked to reconsider severance ruling in Mallory Beach lawsuit
HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Lawyers representing the family of a woman killed in a 2019 boating accident asked a Hampton County judge to reverse a decision to separate the trials in their civil wrongful death suits.
The attorneys for the family of Mallory Beach filed a wrongful death lawsuit against former Lowcountry attorney Alex Murdaugh and the Parker’s store in Ridgeville where a clerk is accused of selling alcohol to Murdaugh’s youngest son, Paul, who was 19 at the time.
Beach, 19, was killed in a boating crash in which Paul Murdaugh was reportedly driving his father’s boat while under the influence.
Earlier this month, Judge Daniel Hall granted a motion filed by Parker’s Corporation that requested that it be tried separately from Murdaugh. In his order, Hall noted the intense public interest in the Murdaugh case as a factor in his decision.
“Really, the only reason they want us tethered together is because they want Parker’s to get swept up into that drama and then pay for their poor decisions and bad actions that’s why Judge Hall severed the case, to avoid that prejudice,” Parker’s lead attorney P. K. Shere said.
The attorneys for the Beach family appealed the decision. Attorney Mark Tinsley relied on 200 years of case law to make his argument against separating the trials in court.
“I don’t think there’s any legal basis to sever it,” Tinsley said. “The plaintiff has a right to bring the claim against everybody, the Beaches have always been insistent they intend on holding everybody that’s responsible for the death of their daughter accountable. We think that the severance hinders that.”
Shere, however, argued the cases have nothing to do with the severance at hand. He called the judge’s ruling “well thought out.”
“Nothing has changed in the time that Judge Hall granted our order. Nothing has changed, everything is the same, " Shere said. “It is a media frenzy. We think the right thing to do is to uphold the severance. We believe the judge has ample grounds to do it, and more importantly, I think the law supports it.”
A trial date for the trial against Parker’s is now tentatively scheduled for Jan. 9.
In addition to the wrongful death lawsuit, Murdaugh is facing charges of murder in the June 2021 shooting deaths of his wife Maggie and son Paul. He also faces dozens of charges related to alleged financial crimes.
Tinsley also voiced some concern about the timeline, telling the court he had spoken to Dick Harpootlian, Murdaugh’s attorney for the criminal charges he is facing, who told him that they still expect a double murder trial to take place that very same month.
But he says he is prepared for that date if a trial were to take place. Shere expressed the same sentiments.
Hall said he will make his final decision by next Tuesday.
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