Parker’s Corporation denies liability in Mallory Beach wrongful death lawsuit

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Published: May. 3, 2023 at 8:54 PM EDT

LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - The Parker’s Corporation, which owns convenience stores, is seeking to have the company dismissed from the wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of Mallory Beach, arguing that it has no liability.

Parker’s is the ownership group of the store where Paul Murdaugh bought alcohol on the night of February 23, 2019.

Paul, who was murdered by his father Alex Murdaugh, was allegedly operating the boat later that night when it crashed into a bridge, killing Beach.

Attorneys for Parker’s and the Beach family argued the motion before Judge Daniel Hall at the Lexington County Courthouse on Wednesday, as the case moves toward a jury trial.

In court filings seeking a summary judgment this week, attorneys for Parker’s argue that the alcohol sale when Paul “defrauded” the company was legal, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, which did not charge the store.

“Tragic events occur, and they are most unfortunate,” attorneys for Parker’s wrote in court documents. “But we must never turn away from the truth. The truth is that Parker’s was not negligent because there is no evidence to support the position that Parker’s knowingly sold alcohol to a minor.”

PK Shere, lead attorney for Parker’s, also alleged in court that the passengers on the boat, including Beach, knowingly made decisions throughout the night to get on a boat with a known drunk driver, and assumed those risks.

“The undisputed facts show that the plaintiff must have knowledge of the facts constituting a dangerous condition, that dangerous condition being getting on a boat with no lights, no life jacket, on a cold, foggy night with someone who you know has had a history of drinking in excess and making a decision are you going to get on that boat or night?”

Mark Tinsley, who represents the Beach family, pushed back, arguing that the underage boat passengers lacked the ability to make informed decisions and cannot assume the risks.

He also said that the alcohol sale never should have happened in the first place.

Though SLED did not find the company criminally liable, Tinsley said that factor is not relevant and would not come before a jury in this civil case because it is highly prejudicial.

Parker’s also said that the clerk who sold the alcohol, Tajeeha Cohen, did her due diligence by checking Paul’s ID, which was the valid one of his older brother Buster.

Tinsley argued that Cohen did not do enough to check to see that the person before her matched the ID, and violated several of Parker’s policies during the sale.

“The policies specifically indicate how much training she’s going to receive, and there are blanks in her personnel file for those things to be filled in, when the training was achieved, who supervised it,” he said. “None of that’s in her personnel file. It’s absent from that.”

Among the steps that the clerk should have taken, Tinsley said, include checking Paul’s height and weight against the ID.

Hall did not rule on the motion Wednesday. He said he plans to make a decision sometime before May 26.

In a separate motion heard by Hall on Wednesday, Alex Murdaugh’s defense attorneys argued for more money to pay for their client’s murder appeal.

Jim Griffin, Murdaugh’s defense attorney, argued that the attorneys should be able to access $160,000 from Murdaugh’s retirement funds.

The attorneys who handle Murdaugh’s receivership argued that the convicted killer is not entitled to an attorney of his choosing on appeal.

If he cannot afford the appeal, the state could provide him with an attorney, they said.

Hall did not make a decision on that matter, either, and said he would have one by May 12.

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