Family of U.Md. student who died from adenovirus sues school, former officials

The family of a University of Maryland freshman who died after an outbreak of adenovirus on the College Park campus in 2018 is suing the school and two former officials.

The suit, filed in Prince George’s County on Wednesday, names the university, former university president Wallace Loh and former Health Center director Dr. David McBride.

The multimillion-dollar lawsuit alleges “systematic failures, deceitful actions and purposeful inactions by university leadership, all of which demonstrate a continuing pattern of indifference to the safety and health of UMD’s students and staff,” according to a news release.

The family is seeking more than $100 million.

Olivia Paregol, 18, died during an outbreak of adenovirus. As WTOP reported, she was taking an immuno-suppressor drug to combat Crohn’s disease, which she obtained from the student health center. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said those with weakened immune systems are most vulnerable to the virus, which can cause cold-like symptoms, including sore throat, bronchitis and pneumonia.

The lawsuit claims the Elkton Hall dorm Paregol was assigned to was overcrowded — 570 students in a 530-capacity building — and that mold was rampant in the walls and ceilings, and even growing on furniture, before Paregol and other students moved into the building in the fall of 2018.

School officials “knew or should have known of the escalating and extensive mold at Elkton Hall and the high number of students affected by mold in the dorm,” the lawsuit stated.

The suit also claims the school failed to report to the student body the adenovirus outbreak until after Paregol’s death, which was 18 days after the first reported cases of the adenovirus on the campus and which the lawsuit claimed was “in direct defiance” of its own infectious disease response plan for notifying students.

In a statement, Ian Paregol, Olivia’s father, said his family will “never recover” from her death.

“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,” he said.

“Specifically, families and students who are beginning their University of Maryland experience need to know and understand there is a long history of mold and cover-up at UMD and the actions and inactions of university leadership have caused adverse health effects to hundreds of students,” he added.

Thomas Doyle of Doyle & Associates is representing the family.

The university issued the following statement related to the lawsuit. “The university grieves the loss of our student Olivia Paregol, and we continue to keep her friends and family in our thoughts. It is our practice to not comment publicly on pending or ongoing litigation,” the statement said.

In the wake of Paregol’s death, Maryland passed “Olivia’s Law” — an infectious disease mandate that went into effect Oct. 1, 2020. It requires that a response plan to an outbreak be submitted to health department officials by Aug. 1 each year.

Back in 2019, an independent investigation has found that the university’s College Park campus followed protocols.

“The university’s response to adenovirus and mold issues on campus complied with recognized federal, state and campus protocols,” the Board of Regents said in a statement, summarizing findings from the report.

WTOP’s Jack Moore contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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