HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. — In yet another twist in the Murdaugh family's legal woes, one of the survivors of the February 24, 2019, boat crash involving Paul Murdaugh is suing the family and the gas station that sold alcohol to the boating party. The crash resulted in the death of University of South Carolina student Mallory Beach.
Connor Cook, who was 19 at the time of the incident, is suing Alex Murdaugh and his remaining son Buster Murdaugh, as well as Gregory M Parker, Inc (also known as Parker's Corporation or Parkers 55), the gas station/convenience store that sold alcohol to those who were on the boat that day and Tajeeha Cohen, the clerk who made the sale at Parkers.
In papers filed in Hampton County, Cook goes into great detail as to the events of that day. Cook said that he was a passenger in a boat driven and crashed by an intoxicated minor, Paul Murdaugh.
Earlier that day, Paul Murdaugh, although not of legal age to purchase alcohol, allegedly went to Parker’s convenience store. The Parker's store is accused of violating South Carolina law and its own policies in allowing him to purchase large quantities of alcohol using the driver’s license of his brother, Richard Alexander Murdaugh, Jr. The lawsuit claims that the driver’s license, along with the third-party credit card used, should have alerted Parker’s that neither card belonged to Paul Murdaugh.
"After consuming this alcohol through the day and into the early morning hours of February 24, 2019, Paul Murdaugh, drunk and traveling at excessive speeds down a narrow creek in the night, without a proper look-out or proper lights, crashed the boat belonging to his father, Richard Alexander Murdaugh, into the Archer’s Creek Bridge with such force as to eject several of the boat passengers into the water and cause Connor Cook to strike his body on the boat frame, to lose consciousness and awake with a serious cut to his face and multiple fractures to his jaw," Cook added. "One passenger’s life, Mallory Beach, was lost forever and the surviving passengers suffered both physical and mental injuries."
According to the lawsuit, it was Cook that placed the 911 call after the accident and that the responding law enforcement officers should have known that alcohol was involved and that Paul Murdaugh was the one driving the boat.
The lawsuit also states that Cook's cousin, Anthony Cook stayed behind at the scene to try to locate his girlfriend Mallory Beach, who had also been thrown from the boat during the crash. Anthony Cook and at least one other individual indicated that Paul Murdaugh drove the boat but law enforcement only asked Connor Cook to submit to a sobriety test.
At the hospital, the lawsuit said, Alex Murdaugh "— who had a clear conflict of interest as the boat owner and the father of the intoxicated Paul Murdaugh — sought out all or most of the boat passengers in an attempt to control the narrative of what had occurred."
Cook said Alex Murdaugh instructed him to “keep his mouth shut” and inform law enforcement he did not know who was driving the boat at the time of the crash."
Murdaugh then allegedly encouraged the Cook family to retain Cory Fleming as an attorney to represent Connor Cook in the criminal investigation regarding who was operating the boat at the time of the collision.
What the Cook family did not know at the time was that Fleming was Alex Murdaugh's college roommate and one of his best friends, and the godfather of Paul Murdaugh.
Cook said in the lawsuit that "Fleming’s instructions served to convert the unwitting Plaintiff Cook into an agent of protection for Paul Murdaugh, exposing Plaintiff Cook to the potential of being charged as boat operator and therefore responsible for the accident."
"Shortly thereafter, it became known to Plaintiff Cook and his family that Defendant Murdaugh and others were orchestrating a campaign to have Connor Cook held criminally and civilly responsible for the boat accident, through inadequate investigation, a 'whisper campaign' in the Hampton County community, and law enforcement misdirection and possible obstruction of the investigation," the lawsuit goes on to say.
Connor Cook said in his January 2020 deposition about the incident that he was "afraid of the Murdaughs because of 'them being who they are.' As Plaintiff Cook testified, 'just anything they get in they get out of. I’ve always been told that.'"
Parkers and Cohen are being sued for negligence and liability for selling the alcohol to underage drinkers
Alex Murdaugh is being sued for:
- negligent entrustment for allowing Paul Murdaugh to use the boat
- negligence for allowing Paul to use his brother's identification to purchase alcohol, drive the boat while intoxicated, and otherwise monitor Paul's actions and then instructing Cook to not cooperate with law enforcement while suggesting the Cook family hire an attorney (Fleming) that was a close friend of the Murdaugh family
- intentional infliction of emotional distress for trying to shift blame for the incident from Paul Murdaugh to Connor Cook
Buster Murdaugh is being sued for negligent entrustment and negligence for his part in allowing his underage brother to use his ID to purchase alcohol.
Cook is seeking actual, special, and punitive damages, costs in the case. Cook suffered multiple fractures to his jaw and a cut on his face from the crash.