Family of U.Md. adenovirus victim takes first step to sue over delayed outbreak report

Six months after 18-year-old Olivia Paregol died during an outbreak of adenovirus at the University of Maryland, the freshman’s family is one step closer to suing the university for what her father calls “a pattern of reckless disregard for the health and safety of students.”

On Monday, Olivia’s family filed a notice of claim under the Maryland Tort Claims Act to Maryland Treasurer Nancy Kopp and U.Md. President Wallace Loh, laying the groundwork for a possible lawsuit against the school.

The university was aware of the outbreak for 18 days before releasing its initial report, The Washington Post reported this month — a crucial time during which Olivia’s father, Ian, says his daughter could have been saved.

The university stood behind its decision to withhold the report, but Ian believes the institution turned a blind eye to its students by delaying. He says the family’s next move depends on the university’s response to the claim.

“We haven’t decided what we’re going to do yet as far as the lawsuit,” Ian told WTOP’s Liz Anderson. “I guess it kind of depends on the response of the administration to the notice.”

While Loh is expected to resign at the end of the 2020 school year, Olivia’s father would like to see him step down immediately.

“We absolutely view the president of the school as ultimately responsible for the workings, actions and inaction of his staff,” added Paregol.

In regards to ensuring students have the information necessary to make informed decisions in the future, Ian said more safeguards to prevent mold on campus should be put in place.

He also expressed concerns about the number of students that were allowed to live in Elkton Hall, the campus housing unit where mold was found in several rooms, including Olivia’s.

Ian also believes students’ health and safety should also be put before the university’s public image.

As reports of mold and adenovirus unfolded, the university was also dealing with an investigation into the death of 19-year-old Jordan McNair, the football player who died after suffering from heatstroke during practice back in May.

“They should be open and transparent, that’s really the bottom line,” he added.

WTOP’s Liz Anderson contributed to this report.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

Alejandro Alvarez

Alejandro Alvarez joined WTOP as a digital journalist and editor in June 2018. He is a reporter and photographer focusing on politics, political activism and international affairs.

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