The sh*t just got real for the Napa Valley Wine Train. You remember the story about the 11 African-American women that were kicked off the train for being too loud while they were laughing. The controversy set many people off and of course a hashtag was created in response to the incident. #LaughingWhileBlack was trending on Twitter and other social media sites for a few days after the news spread. The ladies have now acquired a lawyer so let the games begin.
Civil rights attorney Waukeen McCoy announces an $11 million dollar lawsuit in federal court for racial discrimination, defamation (libel) and breach of contract on behalf of the 11 women kicked off the Napa Valley Wine Train in August.
The plaintiffs are suing Napa Valley Wine Train, Inc., Noble House Hotels & Resorts, Ltd., Brooks Street Property Management, Inc., Kim Powers, Kira McManus Devitt, and Anna Marquinn.
“The goal of this lawsuit is to ensure that this sort of racial discrimination does not happen to anyone else,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney Waukeen Q. McCoy. “These are highly educated, successful, and well-respected women in their community, and the treatment they received was disgraceful and illegal.”
The plaintiffs are seeking damages, the implementation of a racial sensitivity training program for the Wine Train management and staff, and the prevention of similar treatment to other minorities.
The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 1 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco (See Lisa Johnson, et al. v Napa Valley Wine Train, Inc. et al, Case No. 3:15-cv-04515).
On Aug. 22, 2015, the 11 women, eight members of a book club plus three of their friends, boarded the Napa Valley Wine Train for a birthday celebration. Less than halfway into the trip, the plaintiffs – 10 of whom are black – allege they were targeted by the Wine Train staff because of their race and kicked off the train for “#LaughingWhileBlack.” As they were disembarked, the plaintiffs, aged 36 to 85, were marched through the six cars comprising the entire train and turned over to police who detained the women in the hot sun.
Napa Valley Wine Train officials posted a false statement on their public Facebook page alleging the book club members directed “verbal and physical abuse towards other guests and staff,” necessitating police involvement in the incident. That statement, though later deleted, was republished by countless international, national and regional media outlets seen by millions of people.