United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW-DAMAGES
A. MENDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an accident on Lake Tahoe that resulted in an above the knee
amputation of her right leg, Plaintiff Manisha Palla brought
a negligence claim against L M Sports, Inc.; L T Leasing,
Inc.; and Paul Garcia. L M Sports and L T Leasing then filed
a limitation of liability action under 46 U.S.C. §§
30505 et seq. The Court consolidated the two cases, then
bifurcated the issues of liability and damages. See
Related Case Order, ECF No. 12; Palla v. L M Sports,
No. 2:16-cv-02975-JAM-EFB, 2019 WL 427300 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 4,
initially participated in the suit. But since the withdrawal
of his attorney in June 2018, ECF No. 72, Garcia has only
made one appearance with the Court: on March 4, 2019, when he
testified during the liability phase of the trial.
conducting a ten-day bench trial on the issue of liability,
the Court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law. ECF
No. 284. Ultimately, the Court found Garcia and L M
Sports's negligence caused Palla's injuries.
Id. 35-36. It further found Garcia was 80% at fault
for Palla's injuries and that L M Sports was 20% at
fault. Id. at 31-33. Finally, the Court concluded L
M Sports failed to show it lacked knowledge of the negligent
conditions that gave rise to Palla's injuries.
Id. at 33-36. As a result, it was not entitled to
the limitation on liability afforded by section 30505 (b) .
Id. L M Sports appealed the Court's decision in
this first phase of the lawsuit. ECF No. 287.
waived her right to a jury trial, the Court proceeded to hold
a nine day bench trial on the issue of Palla's damages.
See ECF Nos. 309, 345. Palla and L M Sports offered
in-person and deposition testimony from Palla, four people
who were on the boat when the accident occurred, a first
responder, a treating physician, Palla's mother,
Palla's friend and co-worker, and seven expert witnesses.
Numerous exhibits were also admitted at trial by both
parties. The Court has considered the documentary evidence,
the testimony of each witness, as well as the parties'
trial briefs, their joint pretrial statement, and their
stipulations. See ECF Nos. 316, 335, 336, 329.
FINDINGS OF FACT
Manisha Palla was born to Suvarana and Sukender Palla on May
8, 1994 in San Jose, California.
was raised by her maternal grandmother in Hyderabad, India
and Portland, Oregon for the first five years of her life.
Palla spent the rest of her childhood in Portland, Oregon
with her mother, father, and younger brother.
Growing up, Palla maintained a strong academic record, had
lots of friends, and participated in several extracurricular
activities, including basketball, volleyball, and taekwondo.
Palla travelled extensively-both domestically and
Palla testified that, before her accident, she never had
hesitations about traveling; nor did she feel like there were
physical limitations on what she could do.
example, Palla had been backpacking, skydiving, and regularly
went camping with her family.
After Palla graduated from high school, she moved to Atlanta,
Georgia, where she attended Emory University.
Emory, she continued to lead an outgoing and active
Palla graduated from Emory when she was twenty-two and began
working at System Application Products ("SAP").
Palla was excited to have a job in an internationally-
focused company, and eager to make her way as a woman in an
industry dominated by men.
met Mariah Koeltl during the SAP interview process.
Palla and Koeltl became fast friends when SAP hired them to
both work in its Chicago office.
They saw each other at work nearly every day.
They ran together; planned trips together; went to social
gatherings together; and talked about their hopes for the
Accident on Lake Tahoe
July 24, 2016 Palla went to Lake Tahoe with a group of her
group went tubing on the lake with a boat and an innertube
they rented from L M Sports.
After Palla took her turn tubing, she swam back to the boat.
When re-boarding, her legs were struck by the boat's
Palla's screams alerted people on the boat of her
felt excruciating pain in one of her legs, but no sensation
in the other.
of her legs had been struck by the propeller, while the other
was completely lodged between the two counter-rotating
Palla reached down to touch one of her legs-it felt
"squishy in some parts" and "hard in other
parts." She testified that it did not feel like an
"in tact human leg."
Ozyurt, Regan Roberts, Sean O'Dea and Alvaro Gilsanz
Herranz jumped in the water to help Palla.
They were unable to free Palla's leg from the blades.
police and the boat rental company were called for help.
While awaiting help, Ozyurt and O'Dea held Palla's
face out of the water to prevent her from drowning.
Notwithstanding their efforts, Palla's face still sunk
below the water several times.
Palla testified that she thought she was going to die.
When Deputy Les Lovell arrived at the scene, Palla was
"paling gray," nearing unconsciousness.
Lovell and his partner freed Palla from the propellers and
handed her over to Marine One.
When Lovell removed Palla from the water, she was unconscious
and no longer bleeding.
that point, Lovell believed Palla was "either dead or in
Stay at Renown Memorial Hospital
Palla did not regain consciousness until the morning after
was alone when she awoke, intubated, at Renown Memorial
Palla got the attention of a nurse outside her room.
nurse came in and pulled back the blanket covering Palla;
Palla saw for the first time that the doctors had amputated
her right leg above the knee.
Palla's mother ("Dr. Palla") went to her
daughter's hospital room once she learned Palla was
Palla wrote her mother notes, asking whether she would still
be able to accomplish the goals she once had.
Palla feared she would never run again; that she would never
get married; that she would face discrimination in India; and
that she would lose her job.
Palla could not provide her daughter reassurance; they both
Four days after the amputation of her right leg, Palla began
experiencing severe phantom pain.
Palla testified her phantom pain felt like electrocutions
where her lower right leg used to be.
July 31, Palla was experiencing phantom pain all hours of the
Palla returned to Portland, Oregon on August 4, 2016.
mother learned how to change Palla's bandages and watch
for eschar so Palla could recover at home rather than at a
Rehabilitation in Portland, Oregon
Palla spent five months recovering at home in Portland,
phantom pain improved during this period of time but never
went away completely.
Palla also had trouble sleeping.
Despite taking anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication,
she consistently suffered from nightmares where she would
effectively re-live the accident on Lake Tahoe.
While in Portland, Palla required her mother's help to
get out of bed, go to the restroom, shower, change her wound
dressings, and prevent blood clots from forming.
Palla went to a hypnotist once while she was in Portland.
did not, however, see a therapist.
During the first month of her rehabilitation, Palla developed
necrotic tissue on her residual limb.
Necrotic tissue is tissue that has died because it lacks
sufficient blood supply-it causes skin discoloration and
poses risks of infection.
Palla's doctor recommended non-surgical treatments for
When these non-surgical treatments failed, Dr. Palla took her
daughter to Dr. Samuel Vincent Bartholomew.
Bartholomew recommended surgeries to cut out the dead tissue
("debridement") and then graft healthy tissue onto
the open wound.
Bartholomew performed the first debridement surgery on
September 6, 2016 and conducted two more debridements over
the next three weeks.
Between each of the debridements, Dr. Palla had to change the
dressings on Palla's wound several times a day.
Each time Dr. Palla put new gauze on the wound, it dried to
the tissue and fat below.
When removed, the gauze ripped apart from the underlying
Palla testified this was an extremely painful process-both
because of the physical pain and because of the guilt she
felt for causing her mom so much anguish.
September 27, Bartholomew performed a successful skin graft.
used skin from Palla's upper left thigh as the donor
Palla now has a large, rectangular scar in that area.
While recovering, Palla largely spent her time in bed.
also spent some time writing.
published two blog posts: one called "Opportunity of
Adversity" and one called "38.991° N,