Policy change implemented through settlement for Motley Rice client involved in fatal Isle of Palms collision

Represented by Motley Rice, the widow of Lowcountry chef Phillip “Phil” Andrew Wallace, 51, received a written apology from the Isle of Palms police department and, importantly,  notice of an official policy change the City said it plans to implement to improve safety on the Isle of Palms Connector and prevent the circumstances that led to Wallace’s death. The policy change was achieved as part of a settlement with the City and a local motorist to resolve a wrongful death suit filed in the wake of the 2016 collision on the Connector that claimed Wallace’s life. Wallace’s widow, Naomi, says she plans to use the settlement to promote justice.

“Due to your husband’s death, the Isle of Palms Police Department has concluded it is best not to add our police vehicles to the mix of potential objects in the break down lane at night when the police vehicles have no lights on,” the letter of apology, signed by Isle of Palms Interim-Chief of Police Kimberly Usry, stated. “Therefore, when Isle of Palms Police are on the Connector at night for any reason, including traffic enforcement, it will be our official procedure that police vehicles will be illuminated with headlights, running lights and, if appropriate, emergency lights.”

“Naomi wanted justice and change in the wake of Phil’s tragic death and she finally received,” said Motley Rice attorney Kevin Dean, who represented Wallace. “The policy change also demonstrates what can be achieved through civil litigation. We are proud of the outcome of this case and that the policy will prevent future similar deaths on the Isle of Palms Connector. I commend Naomi for her strength in seeing the case through and achieving this change.”

Wallace was less than three miles from home around 5 a.m. Oct. 13, 2016 when his moped clipped the rear corner of one of two Isle of Palms police cruisers that were parked in the dark on the northbound shoulder of the Connector without any lights on. He had moved over to let a large box truck pass him. Wallace was thrown from his moped onto the road where he lay injured, but conscious. He was then fatally struck by a vehicle driven by Robert L. Abel, an Isle of Palms resident.

The lawsuit, filed last year by Wallace’s wife, alleged that the officers who were parked on the bridge failed to protect Wallace in the moments after the collision, causing him to be fatally struck. Named in the suit were defendants the City of Isle of Palms and Abel.

The City settled the suit for $450,000 ($150,000 more than the South Carolina Tort Claims Act cap of $300,000 for a wrongful death suit). Additionally, Abel’s insurance company paid $300,000, bringing the total settlement to $750,000.

Read about the case.

Watch attorney Kevin Dean discuss the settlement with Charleston’s Channel 4 News.