HAMPTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Attorneys for Alex Murdaugh on Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss the case brought against him by the family of his former housekeeper, whom he allegedly swindled out of millions of dollars in a wrongful death settlement.
The motion essentially claims that since other parties in the case have already compensated the Satterfield family in excess of the original lost funds, Murdaugh should not have to pay the family “because South Carolina law prohibits Plaintiffs from obtaining a double recovery from the same injury.”
Documents obtained by the lawyers for the Satterfield Estate showed that the family should have received over $4 million from Murdaugh’s insurance providers, but much of the settlement was diverted into a shell account set up by Murdaugh.
The Satterfields have received over $6 million in damages from other parties involved in the original transaction, including Murdaugh’s close friend Cory Fleming, who represented the Satterfield family, and Chad Westendorf of Palmetto State Bank.
Murdaugh’s lawyers argue that since the Satterfield family has been “fully compensated for their alleged losses” by the other parties, the only thing left for the Satterfield family to seek from Murdaugh is punitive damages.
However, “the purposes of punitive damages are to punish the wrongdoer and deter the wrongdoer and others from engaging in similar reckless, willful, wonton, or malicious conduct in the future,” which the suit says “are the exact same purposes of a criminal prosecution.”
Since the suit is a civil suit, Murdaugh’s lawyers argue that a stay “is in the best interests of judicial economy and will not interfere with Plaintiffs’ interest in an expeditious recovery (which has already been obtained.” They ask that “the Complaint be dismissed, or in the alternative, that this action be stayed pending the resolution of the criminal prosecution.”
Eric Bland, who serves as co-council for the Satterfield Estate, called the move repugnant. Bland said that Murdaugh’s argument that he can keep the money he stole because other parties paid the Satterfield family back is beyond offensive.
“I never expected [it]. Just because you can make an argument doesn’t mean you should make it. It’s an act of a desperate man to say ‘well, I stole the money and the Satterfields did such a great job in forcing other people to pay, that I shouldn’t have to pay… I just get to go home and keep the money I stole.'”
According to Bland, the argument that the Satterfields have been fully compensated is unsound as well. He noted that although they have received more than the original $4 million lost, they have incurred interest on the money stolen as well as attorney fees in the case. Whether they have been fully compensated is for the court to decide, not Murdaugh.
Bland said that the proceedings will continue, with possible depositions of other people and subpoenas being issued in the future.
He also said that he is looking forward to a hearing on the matter, noting that he doesn’t foresee a jury being sympathetic to the argument being made by Murdaugh’s lawyers.