By Meredith Poston, Island Eye News Staff Writer
In the early morning hours on October 13, 2016, Phillip “Phil” Andrew Wallace was driving his moped northbound on the Isle of Palms Connector towards his Mt. Pleasant home when he collided with a police cruiser that was parked roadside. Upon contact, Wallace was thrown from his moped; shortly after, at 5:13 a.m., Wallace was struck by a vehicle driven by Isle of Palms resident Robert L. Abel.
Wallace, 51, was then taken to a Medical University of South Carolina hospital, where he died a short time later. No criminal charges were made.
Wallace’s family has filed a civil suit against the City of Isle of Palms and Abel in a wrongful death action, claiming gross negligence. Motley Rice, a firm recognized as one of the nation’s largest plaintiffs’ litigation firms, is handling the case.
According to the investigation conducted by Motley Rice, the suit alleges that Abel and the City of Isle of Palms caused Wallace’s death due to negligent acts and omissions, in addition to their breach of duty.
A local chef, Wallace arrived at the Sea Biscuit Café on the Isle of Palms to start the 5:30 a.m. breakfast shift. Upon his arrival, Wallace realized that he was not scheduled, and left the restaurant to return home. The collision occurred less than three miles from Wallace’s home.
Wallace’s moped collided with Isle of Palms Police Officer Amanda Postell’s vehicle, which was parked with its lights off on the shoulder of the Isle of Palms Connector according to the lawsuit. Parked in front of her car was Isle of Palms Police Officer Dylan Reynolds’ vehicle, also with its lights off.
The Isle of Palms Connector does not have overhead road lights and the sun had yet to rise, creating a dark stretch of roadway. According to the complaint filed by Motley Rice, a traffic camera video recording shows Wallace turn his moped, lights on, left onto the Isle of Palms Connector, closely followed by a large box truck. The video shows the truck pass Wallace as they approached the peak of the bridge. The complaint states that “it is believed Wallace moved to just along the fog line to allow the truck to pass.”
As he drove his moped close to the shoulder to allow the truck to pass, Wallace struck Postell’s cruiser. He was thrown from the moped to the ground, where he lay injured but conscious.
Motley Rice’s complaint alleges that Wallace was laying in the median emergency lane with his head and shoulders laying across the double yellow line. They claim that he was responsive to the officers, and that it was then that both officers turned on their police cruisers’ blue lights.
Attorney Kevin Dean argues that “He was moaning. The officers were able to speak to him, but for some reason both of these officers didn’t take quick enough action to keep him from being run over.”
Robert Abel, who serves on the Isle of Palms Code Board of Appeals, was headed northbound on the Isle of Palms connector; despite the two police cars parked along the shoulder flashing blue lights and Officer Reynolds’ attempt to wave down the oncoming vehicle “Mr. Abel failed to stop, yield, or slow down. He ran over the moped, continued driving and then hit and killed Wallace who was laying in the road,” states the complaint.
Wallace’s wife, Naomi, is said by Dean to have decided to pursue litigation after she received understanding and concern from other residents who are concerned by police cars parking illegally on the connector at night throughout the early morning, despite the lack of lighting.
It is stated in the official complaint filed that Mrs. Wallace “suffered the loss of her right to the companionship, aid, society and services of her spouse as a result of the Defendants’ negligent and/ or grossly negligent misconduct or omissions.”
The complaint also states that the “wrongful acts of the Defendants showed willful misconduct and lack of due care to raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences and rights of others.” It continues, stating “Punitive damages should be imposed in an amount sufficient to keep such wrongful conduct from being repeated.”
When contacted for comment, the Isle of Palms Police Department stated that the Isle of Palms “City Hall is taking all of those calls.”
The City of Isle of Palms said that they have “no further comment regarding this case.” The complaint was officially filed on March 6 by Motley Rice, LLC.