MDC Blackout: January 27 to February 3, 2019

Scott v. Quay, 19-cv-1075 (E.D.N.Y.)

Last Updated September 20, 2021

If you were at the MDC during the blackout or know someone who was, please continue reading for more information about how to become involved in this lawsuit.

The Lawsuit

On February 22, 2019, plaintiffs David Scott and Jeremy Cerda, both of whom were detained at the Metropolitan Detention Center (“MDC”) in Brooklyn, NY, during the January 27 – February 3, 2019 blackout and crisis, filed a lawsuit against Warden Herman Quay in federal court in Brooklyn. The lawsuit, Scott v. Quay, currently includes claims against former Warden Herman Quay and facilities manager John Maffeo for conditions violating the U.S. Constitution and against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). The FTCA allows individuals to file personal injury claims against the United States for property damage, injury, or death caused by a federal employee. The lawsuit is currently assigned to Judge Edward R. Korman and Magistrate Judge Peggy Kuo. It was previously assigned to Judge Margo K. Brodie and Magistrate Judge Steven M. Gold.

Updates on the Case

Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on February 13, 2020. After both parties briefed and argued the case, Magistrate Judge Gold issued a Report and Recommendation on November 16, 2020, recommending that the motion to dismiss be denied as to Plaintiffs’ FTCA claim and granted as to Plaintiffs’ constitutional claims. Both parties filed objections to Judge Gold’s Report and Recommendation. On March 22, 2021, Judge Korman issued an order adopting Magistrate Judge Gold’s Report and Recommendation.

We filed our motion for class certification on February 17, 2021, to ask the Court to allow this case to proceed as a class action. Class certification is required in every class action lawsuit and will allow us to represent all 1,600 people who were housed in the MDC’s West Building when the blackout occurred. The Defendants will submit their opposition to our motion in April, and we will respond in May.

Judge Korman certified the class under the FTCA. If you have not filled out any paperwork to file a Federal Tort Claim, please contact our office at mdc@ecbalaw.com. 

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Who Is Part of the Class Action? What Do I Do to Join the Class Action?
Every person who was confined at MDC during the crisis is a member of the potential class action. If you were confined in the MDC at that time, you are automatically a member of the potential class action if it is approved by the Court and if you choose to remain a part of it. So long as your SF-95 has already been filed, you do not have to do anything to continue to be a class member.

Who Are the Lawyers for the Class Action?
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP, the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’s Civil Rights Clinic, and Alexander A. Reinert represent the plaintiffs and are seeking to represent the class of people who were harmed by the blackout.          

What Is the Status of the Class Action Lawsuit?
While defendants’ motion to dismiss is still unresolved, we are moving forward with asking the court to represent the class of people who were harmed by the United States’ negligence during the blackout. The case is continuing to move forward with discovery, which means that the government must provide us with documents in their possession that might help us prove our case. The plaintiffs are also required to provide documents to the defendants. The discovery process will take many months.

How Long Will the Lawsuit Take?
It is unlikely that this lawsuit will be resolved for at least another year. While it is possible that the government will offer to settle the case before it goes to trial, this outcome is by no means certain or expected. This lawsuit could take a very long time to resolve and we appreciate your continued patience.

What Does the Lawsuit Request for the Class Members?
If the lawsuit proceeds as a class action, we will seek money for each person who was in the MDC between January 27, 2019 and February 3, 2019. The lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount because it is too early in the case.

If the Court agrees that a class action should be approved, each member of the class will receive notice. For people who don’t want to be part of the class action, they will have an opportunity to “opt out” of the class action—in other words, each class member could decide not to be included in the class action. 

If the Court denies our request to proceed as a class action, we will seek to inform everyone, and you will then be free to file an individual lawsuit for any harm you suffered at the MDC between January 27 and February 3, 2019. We cannot promise to represent you in any individual lawsuit you file if the class action is not certified. 

We do not currently represent you individually in any claims you might have based on your time at the MDC. We also are not your criminal attorneys and cannot provide you with advice about your criminal case.

Will I Receive Money from the Lawsuit? How Much Money Could I Receive?
This lawsuit seeks money for people who were at the MDC during the blackout. In order to receive money, the lawsuit must succeed, either through a settlement or at trial. We do not yet know how much money each individual might receive, if the lawsuit is successful. It is possible that the government could eventually offer to settle the case by offering a specific amount of money to the entire class of people affected. It is also possible that the parties will reach no settlement, and the case will proceed to trial. At that point, a judge and jury would decide whether we win and whether the government must pay class members for how they were treated during the crisis at MDC.  

How Can I Contact the Lawyers for the Case?
If you have any questions related to this case that are not answered by this website, you can contact us by email at mdc@ecbalaw.com. The lawyers for the plaintiffs at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel are Katie Rosenfeld, Andrew Wilson, and Scout Katovich, as well as legal fellow Sonya Levitova. The lawyers for the plaintiffs at the Cardozo Law School’s Civil Rights Clinic are Professor Betsy Ginsberg and law students Kira Brekke and Clare Haugh. Alexander Reinert is another lawyer for the plaintiffs.

We will do our best to respond to every inquiry we receive. Because we anticipate receiving many questions, we ask that you do not contact us with inquiries regarding other grievances you might have that do not relate to the blackout at the MDC from January 27 to February 3, 2019. We hope you will refer to this website for the latest updates.

Last updated: September 20, 2021