Family of University of Maryland freshman killed by adenovirus file $100.4million lawsuit


The family of a University of Maryland freshman who died in 2018 of adenovirus have filed a $100.4million wrongful death lawsuit against the school and two former officials, accusing them of concealing the respiratory infection outbreak for more than two weeks.

Olivia Paregol, 18, was immunocompromised, having been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and developed pneumonia on November 9, 2018, as a complication of a severe strain of adenovirus – a common illness from which most people recover on their own, but which could be deadly to vulnerable patients.

Less than a week later, Olivia died in an intensive care unit of a Maryland hospital after suffering ‘unimaginable pain,’ according to a new court filing. 

Family of Olivia Paregol has filed a wrongful death lawsuit

The family of University of Maryland freshman Olivia Paregol (left) is suing the school and two former officials for $100.4million, nearly three years after she died from adenovirus

The University of Maryland (pictured) is being sued for wrongful death and negligence

The University of Maryland (pictured) is being sued for wrongful death and negligence 

The 23-page civil complaint, which was filed by Olivia’s parents, Ian and Margaret Paregol, on Wednesday in Prince George’s County, Maryland, alleges the university had failed to inform students that the adenovirus was present on campus until after Paregol’s death.

‘Our family will never recover from the grief of losing our beloved, sweet Olivia,’ Ian Paregol said in a statement. ‘While this lawsuit seeks to bring a modicum of justice to Olivia, it is intended also to serve as a wake-up call for students and families of UMD and of other colleges and universities that have failed in their basic responsibilities to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.’ 

Adenovirus comes in more than 100 different strains.

WHAT IS ADENOVIRUS?

Adenovirus is a respiratory infection that comes in more than 100 different strains.

Like most viruses, some types can infect humans, while others cannot, some will cause nothing more than a common cold, while others can be pernicious

The worst strains of a respiratory adenovirus infection can masquerade as the flu and its symptoms – sore throat runny nose, fatigue, fever, chest congestion and cough – may be every bit as miserable.

Less common illnesses caused by adenovirus include bladder infection or inflammation and neurologic disease. 

But even then, the illness is rarely life-threatening. It typically only endangers very young children and the elderly.

People with weakened immune systems, or existing respiratory or cardiac disease, are at higher risk of developing severe illness. 

Like most viruses, some types can infect humans, while others cannot, some will cause nothing more than a common cold, while others can be pernicious

The worst strains of a respiratory adenovirus infection can masquerade as the flu and its symptoms – sore throat runny nose, fatigue, fever, chest congestion and cough – may be every bit as miserable.

But even then, the illness is rarely life-threatening. It typically only endangers very young children and the elderly.

A compromised immune system, however, can change everything.

The Paregol family’s lawsuit also accuses the University of Maryland, former University President Wallace Loh and former Health Center Director David McBride of failing to address a persistent mold problem at Elkton Hall, the dormitory where Olivia lived, and even covering it up by instructing maintenance workers to simply paint over the mold, or ‘wipe it off.’ 

According to the complaint, the mold contamination in Olivia’s room may have contributed to her untimely death from the adenovirus by making her cough and weakening her body.

The University Health Center previously disputed the claim that the mold problem was related to the virus outbreak. 

More than 40 students were sickened by the infection, at least 15 of them requiring hospitalization, and nearly 600 students had to be temporarily relocated to hotels because of the mold contamination.

The lawsuit alleges the University of Maryland ‘wantonly, recklessly and intentionally engaged in conduct with conscious disregard of applicable health and safety codes’ when it placed 570 students in Elkton Hall designed to safely house about 530 students. 

According to the filing, the defendants knew that the 50-year-old building’s air conditioning and HVAC systems could not handle the ‘excess capacity of students’ and remove the higher volumes of moisture from the air, allowing for an overgrowth of mold. 

The complaint alleges that university officials had failed to address a sever mold problem in Elkton Hall, the dorm where Olivia lived

The complaint alleges that university officials had failed to address a sever mold problem in Elkton Hall, the dorm where Olivia lived 

Mold is seen on the ceiling of a room in Elkton Hall. The contamination had forced the school to temporarily relocated more than 500 students in 2018

Mold is seen on the ceiling of a room in Elkton Hall. The contamination had forced the school to temporarily relocated more than 500 students in 2018 

‘The excessive moisture created an optimal situation for hazardous mold to grow on and behind the walls and ceilings in Elkton Hall,’ the lawsuit reads.

Within days of moving into her dorm room, Olivia reportedly began to see mold growth on personal items. Before long, the freshman and her roommate allegedly began to cough and experience difficulty breathing.

The student complained about the problem to university officials, who sent workers to clean off the mold .

‘The Defendants knew at all time priors to the students moving in and while the students were living in Elkton hall that simply wiping off mold would do nothing to eradicate the mold infestations yet continued the pattern of willful and reckless deceit and engaged in this willful, wanton cover-up in disregard for the health, safety and welfare of the students,’ the complaint alleges.

Olivia continued coughing and growing weaker through September and October, and was ultimately diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection.

A day before Olivia returned to the University Health Center on November 2 for a follow-up visit, Director McBride allegedly learned that the had been a confirmed case of adenovirus on campus, ‘but he willfully and intentional [sic] withheld this critical information,’ despite allegedly knowing of Olivia’s compromised immune system.

Former University President Wallace Loh

Former Health Center Director David McBride (right)

The lawsuit names as defendants former University President Wallace Loh (left) and former Health Center Director David McBride (right)

Ian Paregol, Olivia's father, says he wants his lawsuit to 'serve as a wake-up call for students and families'

Ian Paregol, Olivia’s father, says he wants his lawsuit to ‘serve as a wake-up call for students and families’ 

On November 6, Olivia was taken to Howard County General Hospital and was treated for what was believed to be bacterial pneumonia. She was released and given a prescription for antibiotics. Three days later, she was rushed back to the hospital as her condition deteriorated.

She was transferred to the ICU two days later, and was then airlifted to the Johns Hoskins Hospital in Baltimore.

On November 18, after going for 10 days with the adenovirus being untreated and enduring ‘unimaginable pain,’ Olivia succumbed to complications related to the illness. 

The lawsuit contends that despite knowing of the adenovirus outbreak, it took Dr McBride, the head of the Health Center, 18 days to notify the students body, which he died a day after Olivia’s death. 

‘The Defendants intentional and willful act of withholding this information from the student body was performed with reckless disregard for the lives, health and safety of Olivia Paregol and the entire student body at the University,’ the complaint contents. 

The lawsuit alleges negligence, gross negligence, civil conspiracy and wrongful death, and is seeking $100.4million in damages. 

In the wake of the outbreak that claimed Olivia’s life, the State of Maryland unanimously passed and enacted ‘Olivia’s Law,’ requiring colleges and universities to annually submit infectious disease response plans to the Maryland Department of Health. 



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