Jurors award man nearly $25 million in amputation lawsuit

Published 5:30 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS — Federal jurors say a Twin Cities plastic surgeon is entitled to nearly $25 million because an emergency medical provider declined to fly him back to the United States after a ziplining injury in Mexico led to a leg amputation.

Richard Tholen, 67, of Plymouth, argued that New Jersey-based Assist America was liable for damages after they failed to send an air ambulance to Mazatlán in April 2015, after complaining about his treatment for a dislocated knee.

Carla Ferrucci, executive director of the 67-year-old Minnesota Association for Justice, a professional lawyers association, told the Star Tribune she cannot recall a larger award of its kind in Minnesota.

“Minnesota juries don’t hand out verdicts like this,” Ferrucci said. “The facts in this case had to be egregious, especially with the $10 million in punitive damages.”

Attorneys for Assist America did not immediately respond to messages from the newspaper. Defense attorney Robert Romero had told jurors during trial that Tholen was a large guy who was racing others on the zipline and later rejected medical advice to stay in the Mazatlán hospital for another day or two.

Tholen’s attorney, Patrick Arenz, said Tholen would still have his leg if Assist America had “honored his request.”