Lawsuit alleges ‘gross systemic deficiencies’ at county jail

  • By Eric Stevick and Scott North Herald Writers
  • Thursday, February 20, 2014 7:07pm
  • Local NewsLocal news

EVERETT — The mother of Michael Saffioti, who died in the Snohomish County Jail in July 2012, is alleging that her son’s death was the result of ingrained problems at the county-run lockup, including deliberate indifference among some of its staff.

“Michael’s death was not only a result of individual employees ignoring Michael’s grave medical needs, but also of the unexplainable gross systemic deficiencies at the Snohomish County Jail,” said Cheryl Snow, one of the family’s attorneys.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges several employees, including a corrections officer and four jail nurses, ignored Saffioti’s medical needs when he began to suffer an apparent allergic reaction after eating breakfast.

The 14-page complaint references email from a county supervisor raising questions about the quality of care provided by jail nurses. It also recounts findings from outside corrections experts, including the National Institute of Corrections, that confirmed substandard medical care for inmates.

Those reviews were requested by Sheriff Ty Trenary, who has been enacting changes at the jail since shortly after taking over in mid-2013. Among the reforms Trenary has made is increased medical screening for inmates, hiring an on-call doctor and better management of medical records for those who wind up behind bars. He’s also tightened up on bookings, reducing the jail’s population as a way to further improve safety.

Saffioti was 22 years old when he turned himself in on a Lynnwood misdemeanor marijuana possession warrant July 2, 2012. He was a Lynnwood prisoner, but county jail officials agreed to detain him because the city lockup was unable to adequately address his medical issues.

Saffioti was taking a number of medications, suffered from asthma and was severely allergic to dairy products, according to court papers.

The lawsuit details allegations of multiple ways jail officials knew, or should have known, that Saffioti risked death from anaphylactic shock.

Saffioti raised questions about the food he was served, according to the lawsuit. He was told to eat what he was given or go without. Booked only a few hours earlier, nobody at the jail had designated him for a special diet, the lawsuit says.

When he began to have a physical reaction to oatmeal that unbeknownst to him contained dairy products, a corrections deputy told Saffioti to go to his cell and remain in lockdown while nurses were alerted.

His lawyers detailed how the corrections deputy then went on break and how nurses didn’t come to his cell — information that was confirmed by the sheriff’s office internal investigation. When nurses were summoned about 30 minutes later, they didn’t bring with them epinephrine, which could have helped with the allergic reaction, the lawsuit says.

Saffioti had been in the jail other three times and one on of those stays had suffered an allergic reaction to dairy exposure that was severe enough that he needed to be rushed to an Everett hospital emergency room.

“In an email describing this medical emergency, a nursing supervisor wrote, ‘will have anaphylaxis for an exposure even from equipment used for milk product …. last time had to call the aid car. Yikes,’” according to the lawsuit.

Moreover, the doctor who helped Saffioti manage his allergies had previously faxed the jail’s medical unit 47 pages of records and a letter describing the man’s risk of a life-threatening reaction if exposed to dairy products, the lawsuit says.

“Based on his past medical history and history of anaphylaxis from exposure to dairy, Michael fully understood that without necessary medical intervention his condition was fatal,” the lawsuit says. His attorneys suggest he suffered “extreme fear” as the minutes passed in his cell and help did not arrive.

Rose Saffioti filed the lawsuit on behalf of her son’s estate. It says the lack of timely medical treatment amounted to a violation of Saffioti’s civil rights.

She earlier had filed a $10 million damage claim against the county.

County attorneys had anticipated that a lawsuit would be filed, said Jason Cummings, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecutor.

It is not the first lawsuit Rose Saffioti has filed against the county in connection with her son’s death.

In October, her attorneys filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court to gain access to jail surveillance camera footage after a protracted public records fight. The county initially denied the video existed.

Saffioti’s attorneys ultimately received the footage they were seeking.

The attorneys are awaiting trial on that case and are pursuing public records penalties against the county “for the past failure to address disclosure of the video,” Snow said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A portion of the site of the proposed Lake Stevens Costco at the intersection of Highway 9 (right) and South Lake Stevens Road (below, out of view). (Chuck Taylor / Herald file)
Shovel alert: Groundbreaking on Lake Stevens Costco is near

A land sale in early June cleared the way. The mayor says dirt could be flying as soon as next week.

Taleah Burr (left right), Laurel Harrison, Caitlin Hitchner and Kelsey Jinneman-Fairbanks are four teachers at Challenger Elementary in Everett got Roman numeral '4' tattoos to represent their "Core 4" solidarity the day after their first year teaching in 2014.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Inked: Third-grade teachers tattoo their solidarity IV-ever

Most of their Challenger Elementary students don’t know about the hidden badge of teacher pride.

In Edmonds, ‘small cell’ deployment permit becomes a big deal

The City Council has allowed new cellular equipment under an ordinance that regulates conditions.

Woman killed in hit-and-run south of Everett is identified

Detectives have been searching for the vehicle that struck Katherine Mueller, 31, of Snohomish.

Highway 99 fatal crash victim from Seattle identified

Sarah Cooper was the passenger in the car that reportedly crossed into oncoming traffic in Lynnwood.

The passenger loading ramp is nearing completion at the new Mukilteo ferry terminal. (Andrea Brown / The Herald) Feb. 4, 2021
State ferry fares set to rise for drivers and walk-ons

A state panel proposed a 2.5% hike in each of the next two years to cover the system’s operating costs.

Officers surrounded a Motel 6 near Everett Tuesday morning after a reported rape. A man tried to flee but was subdued and arrested. (Ellen Dennis / The Herald) 20210615
Man arrested after standoff at motel over reported rape

Surrounded by a SWAT team near Everett, the man tried to flee but was subdued with pepper balls.

Arlington-area man arrested in fatal machete attack on uncle

The nephew, 31, claimed self-defense. It was an argument over a wheelbarrow, a sheriff’s deputy wrote.

Jeff Thoreson does a cheer with his second grade class before the start of their kickball game on his last in-person day of school on Thursday, June 17, 2021 in Snohomish, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish teacher hit the right notes in memorable career

Jeff Thoreson will retire this month after molding minds at Riverview Elementary School for 41 years.

Most Read