The mother of a young man who died in a Lynnwood, WA jail after turning himself in on a minor pot charge last year has given county authorities notice that she intends to file a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against them.
The lawsuit announcement comes 15 months after 22-year-old Michael Saffioti died in custody and nine months after prosecutors decided not to file criminal charges against anyone at the jail connected to the incident.
Saffioti had an extreme allergy to dairy products, in addition to other health conditions. He used marijuana medicinally to feel better, according to his mother Rose, but he had yet to register with Washington State as a medical cannabis patient. During a previous stint in Snohomish County jail for pot possession charges, Saffioti was dubbed “Bubble Boy” by fellow inmates because his food was prepared separately and plastic-wrapped to protect him from allergens.
On July 2, 2012 Saffioti turned himself in to Lynnwood police for a misdemeanor warrant for marijuana possession. He was dead less than one day later. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office concluded that Saffioti died from bronchial asthma stemming from a severe allergic reaction to milk products.
According to the lawsuit notice filed by Rose Saffioti, when Michael turned himself in, an officer noted his health conditions, including his allergy to dairy, and “determined that he could not be properly supervised at the city jail due to his medical issues.” He was transferred to the county jail, where Saffioti was assigned to the mental health unit rather than the medical unit, according to the notice of claim, which also states that the jail failed to put Saffioti on the list for a special diet.
In the early hours of July 3, Saffioti was served breakfast (oatmeal, according to another inmate). Fifteen minutes later he told an officer he wasn’t feeling well and asked to see a nurse. The claim states that, after guards accused him of faking sickness, it took half an hour for nurses to arrive – by the time they arrived Saffioti was “pale and did not appear to be breathing.” He was pronounced dead less than two hours3 after he ate his morning meal.
Although marijuana has been legalized in Washington State, marijuana users and their families continue to suffer because of pot prohibition. The Snohomish County Sheriff’s office has yet to issue a statement regarding Michael Saffioti’s death.