Santa Barbara, Calif.—A product liability and wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Toyota on December 19 as a result of a traffic accident that resulted in the death of a Buellton woman. (Robert Francis Wall Jr. vs. Toyota Motor Corp., LTD et al, Superior Court, Santa Barbara County, December 19, 2014, Case No. 1470003).
On December 19, 2013, Linda Wall, age 68, was slowing down from highway speed, approaching a red light at the intersection of State Highway 246 and Casino Drive near Santa Yanez. Wall was driving a 2004 Toyota Highlander. While slowing, Wall’s vehicle was rear-ended by a 2010 Jeep Wrangler forcing the Highlander into a 2010 Chevy Equinox that was stopped at the light.
The lawsuit states that because of a defect in the Highlander’s design, the rear-end collision caused the Highlander’s driver’s side seatback to break and collapse backward into a fully-reline position. The impact forced Wall towards the back of her vehicle, past the fully reclined headrest, striking her head on the rear seat. Wall died seven hours later at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. According to the hospital, the cause of death was cervical vertebral fractures due to blunt force injury of the neck.
Also named in the lawsuit is Rebecca Sandoval, age 37, the driver of the Wrangler. The day prior to the accident, Sandoval drove to the front gate of Vandenberg Air Force Base where the complaint says she was crying hysterically and acting irrationally. Base personnel called an ambulance, and when it arrived, Sandoval became physically resistant while being checked by paramedics. She was eventually taken to Lompoc Valley Medical Center. After inspecting Sandoval’s vehicle, base personnel found multiple used and unopened nitrous oxide containers. Her car was towed and placed in a tow yard.
The next day, prior to the accident that killed Wall, Sandoval retrieved her car. She drove to the Chumash Casino, where the complaint says she abused the illegal drugs left in the vehicle, got back into her car, and while under the influence of nitrous oxide, rear-ended Wall. “Neither Sandoval or the occupants of the Equinox suffered serious injury,” says Barry Cappello, managing partner of Cappello & Noël and one of the attorneys representing Wall’s husband and three adult children in the case. “Sandoval and others, including Toyota, contributed to the cause of Linda Wall’s untimely death.”
Sandoval is charged with murder, felony gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, driving under the influence causing injury, and a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence. She is currently in custody with bail set at $1.1 million.