Pictured above are 5 of the members of the Sistahs on the Reading Edge book club, Katherine Neal, Georgia Lewis, Lisa Renee Johnson, Allisa Carr and Sandra Jamerson, who were were booted off the Napa Valley Wine Train have filed a $11,000,000 lawsuit against the company.
“Blacks are still being treated differently in America,” attorney Waukeen McCoy said at a news conference . The lawsuit seeks $11 million in damages, $1 million for each of the plaintiffs — 10 black women and one white woman.
“I truly now know how it feels to be a black woman,” said the white plaintiff, Linda Carlson, 55, a mail carrier in Contra Costa County. Along with the rest of the group, she was escorted off the train, past rows of other passengers, and handed over to a waiting police officer.
Tira McDonald, 47, said the humiliation continued after they were kicked off the train.
“We had to stand in the hot sun and have people on the train look at us as if we were criminals,” said McDonald.
Two of the women have lost their jobs because of the incident.
McCoy and the two women declined to discuss the dismissals or say whether their employers had mentioned the train incident. But the attorney said news of their removal had traveled quickly, and “we don’t think it was a coincidence” that they were terminated soon afterward.
Carlson said the publicity led to a heartbreaking moment when her 5-year-old granddaughter, who had heard media reports, told her, “You were being very disrespectful to those people on the train.”
To win their case, the women would have to prove that they were singled out because of their race and not their behavior. A Wine Train spokeswoman has said guests are removed from the train about once a month.
The Wine Train’s chief executive, Anthony Giaccio, apologized to the women two days after the incident, said the train staff had been “100 percent wrong,” and offered a free future trip for the women and 39 friends in a private car. McCoy said the offer wouldn’t come close to compensating the women for the harm to their reputations and for the trauma they still suffer.
They couldn’t get wine. But they’re about to get money.