Lawyer for boy’s family files lawsuit

The Scottsdale, Ariz., attorney for the family of Jack Ariola Erenberg filed a complaint this morning in 10th Judicial District Court charging wrongful death, negligence, failure to warn and violation of regulations against the city of Stillwater, the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, Washington County and the Minnesota Department of Health.

“We thought it was the appropriate venue to file because the county of Washington and the city of Stillwater are involved,” said Roger Strassburg, attorney for Ariola Erenberg’s family.

Nine-year-old Ariola Erenberg died Aug. 6 after contracting primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) from Naeglaria fowleri, a water-dwelling microorganism, after swimming in Lily Lake. The lake was closed to swimming the day after his death.

Ariola Erenberg was the second child to contract the disease in Lily Lake. Seven-year-old Annie Bahneman was confirmed to have died from PAM two years ago.

The amoeba is found in warm freshwater and PAM is contracted after it travels through a swimmer’s nose to their brain.

The facts of the case involve the deaths of Ariola Erenberg, Bahneman and Hailee LaMeyer of Chisago County who contracted PAM, the same disease that caused Ariola Erenberg’s death, from the waters of Fawn Lake.

The complaint seeks the following:

  •  Recovery of reasonable damages to the fullest extent of the law in an amount greater than $50,000.
  • An injunction ordering the city to post conspicuous warnings at Lily Lake Park regarding the danger of Naeglaria fowleri and that the appropriate protective measures be taken.
  •  An injunction asking the city, county and state to distribute information about the risks posed by Naegleria fowleri in public service announcements to the public and schools.
  • An injunction ordering that if the city of Stillwater cannot operate Lily Lake safely, the city should construct an alternative swimming facility with a chlorinated pool.

City Attorney David Magnuson Tuesday asked council members not to discuss the claim publicly. Messages left with the attorney for the city from the League of Minnesota Cities, Pete Rignier, were not returned by deadline today.

Update: Pete Rignier responded at 1:00 p.m. saying he had yet to see a copy of the complaint.