S.C. family sued in federal court over boat crash that killed 19-year-old woman

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Paul Murdaugh after the crash and in court.

Paul Murdaugh after the crash and in court.

The South Carolina family at the center of the February boat crash that killed a 19-year-old Hampton, S.C., woman earlier this year is facing a lawsuit in federal court.

According to an article in The Island Packet, Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance asked the court to relieve the company of financial responsibilities for any claims by the father and brother of 20-year-old Paul Murdaugh in the wrongful death suit filed by the mother of Mallory Beach, who died in the accident.

The request is the second time Richard Alexander Murdaugh, Paul Murdaugh’s father, has asked an insurance company to cover a wrongful death claim, according to the report.

Paul Murdaugh, of Hampton, was charged with three counts of felony boating under the influence in the Feb. 24 crash that killed Beach. Paul Murdaugh was reportedly driving the boat, which belonged to his father, when it crashed into a bridge near Parris Island, S.C. Beach fell overboard and was found five days later. Local law enforcement noted that the five surviving passengers appeared to be “grossly intoxicated,” according to the Island Packet story.

Paul Murdaugh pleaded not guilty to the charges in May and has not been named in the wrongful death lawsuit, filed in Hampton Count Court of Common Pleas. His father and brother, Richard Alexander Murdaugh Jr., were listed as defendants, along with the gas station alleged to have sold the family alcohol earlier on the day of the accident. Because he wasn’t named in that lawsuit, Paul Murdaugh has avoided being sued in federal court.

The wrongful death suit isn’t blaming Paul Murdaugh for Beach’s death. It placed responsibility on Paul Murdaugh’s father and older brother for allowing the 20-year-old to use false identification to obtain alcohol, according to the article.

Philadelphia Indemnity’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for South Carolina-Beaufort Division, also named Renee Beach, Mallory Beach’s mother, as a defendant. The suit was filed in federal court because the insurance company is based in Pennsylvania and because the potential cost to defend the Murdaughs “potentially exceeds $75,000,” according to court documents.

The insurance company wants to deny the Murdaughs coverage because it alleges wrongdoing in “the monitoring or supervision of Murdaugh’s/Murdaugh Jr.’s minor son/minor brother (Paul),” the federal lawsuit said.

The Murdaughs reportedly requested that two commercial insurance policies cover them in the wrongful death suit. The complaint stated several reasons that Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance said it has no duty to cover the Murdaughs.

The suit does not place Richard Murdaugh or his son near the accident on the night of Beach’s death. Instead, it states that their “combined and concurred” conduct of enabling Paul Murdaugh’s behavior caused the injuries suffered by Beach.