The mother of a man who died in the Snohomish County Jail after turning himself in on a minor pot charge has filed a notice of claim against the county, indicating she will seek $10 million in a lawsuit.
The story of Michael Saffioti is both sad and ironic given that just months after his death, the state’s voters legalized marijuana use. Making the tale all the more poignant is that it took just one day in jail for Saffioti to die.
As we wrote back in January, Saffioti had a variety of health conditions, including asthma and an extreme allergy to dairy products. According to his mother Rose, interviewed last fall by a Portland TV station, he felt better when he used marijuana.
But he apparently didn’t have a medical marijuana authorization filled out, as the law required, by a health care provider. Asked why, Rose’s lawyer, James S, Rogers, said he doesn’t know. What’s certain is that his pot use made him vulnerable to drug possession charges.
He had already spent some time in jail. During one previous stint, inmates dubbed him “Bubble Boy” because his food was wrapped in plastic to avoid setting off his allergies, according to the The Everett Herald. This time, however, something went wrong.
According to the notice of claim filed on Monday, when Saffioti turned himself into the Lynwood Police Department, an officer noted his health conditions—including his dairy allergy—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.
Yet that jail assigned Saffioti not to its medical unit but to a mental health unit, according to the notice of claim. The document also says that the jail failed to put Saffioti on the list for a special diet.
He was served breakfast at 5:46 a.m. on July 3. Fifteen minutes later, he told an officer he was feeling unwell and asked to see a nurse--a request he would repeat ever more urgently.
It took roughly a half-hour for nurses to arrive, according to the notice of claim. By that time, the document says, Saffioti was “pale and did not appear to breathing.” He was pronounced dead at 7: 41.
A report by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner determined that the cause of death was asthma, atlhough questions have circulated as to whether Saffioti’s allergy played a role.
He was 22.
The county Sheriff’s office has yet to return a call seeking comment.