Lyme Disease: Damages Sought in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit



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Medical Malpractice Case Resulting in Death from Lyme Disease

“It’s our hope that medical professionals and the general public can learn from the tragedy of this case and prevent it from happening to other people,” he said. “It’s clear that a negative test doesn’t mean you don’t have Lyme disease.” – Michael Ronemus

Following a visit to a summer camp in Rhode Island in 2013, 17-year-old Joseph Elone died suddenly when the Lyme disease he had contracted from a tick bite spread to his heart. Joseph passed away on August 5, 2013 after collapsing on his family’s lawn and being rushed to the hospital. Despite several attempts on the part of Joseph’s parents to get treatment for Joseph’s symptoms, medical professionals never diagnosed Lyme disease. As a result, the disease pathogens were able to spread to tissues throughout his body, including his lungs, brain, and heart. Joseph’s family was devastated by their young son’s avoidable death.

The Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Now, with the help of personal injury attorney Michael Ronemus of Ronemus & Vilensky, LLP, Joseph’s family is seeking compensation for Joseph’s untimely death via a wrongful death lawsuit. As the administratrix of the estate of her son, Diane Elone is the plaintiff in the suit. The lawsuit was filed at the Supreme Court of the State of New York County of Westchester on July 23, 2015. In the suit, several defendants are named, including:

  • Oluchi Nwahiwe and Dr. Fe Aplasca of The Children’s Medical Group PLLC
  • Denny James Pacheco of EOS Medical Group, P.C.
  • Irfan Warsy of the Children’s & Women’s Physicians of Westchester, LLP
  • Vassar Brothers Medical Center of Poughkeepsie, New York

The lawsuit centers on the failure of medical professionals to accurately diagnose and treat the disease, causing Joseph Elone’s illness. Joseph began experiencing illness symptoms soon after returning from summer camp, presenting to the pediatrician with a sore throat and a persistent cough. He then developed chronic fatigue and soreness in his joints. These symptoms are common in those infected with the Lyme disease pathogen. Medical professionals evaluated Joseph for a wide range of other illnesses before eventually testing him for the presence of Lyme disease.

The antibody test for Lyme disease came back negative. In the absence of the characteristic rash that accompanies many Lyme infections and with a negative test, doctors continued to ignore the possibility that Joseph might have been infected. Based on flawed diagnostic guidelines, the clock had run out on Joseph and he succumbed to the infectious disease.

Seeking Damages for Joseph’s Death

Elone family attorney Michael Ronemus is not certain if a settlement will be reached with the lawsuit’s defendants or if the case will continue to a courtroom trial in New York. The facts in the case seem clear: that negligence in diagnosis and care led to Joseph’s entirely avoidable premature death. The family is seeking financial damages in the lawsuit, including:

  • Losses related to the services, income, support, and guidance of the decedent.
  • Funeral costs and other death expenses.
  • Pecuniary damages associated with Joseph’s death.

The family and attorney representing them hope that the medical community can learn from Joseph’s death; by revising diagnostic guidelines for Lyme disease and focusing on early intervention/treatment, many other lives can be saved.