Book club files $11m lawsuit against Napa Wine Train

A group of black women have filed an $11 million racial discrimination lawsuit against the Napa Wine Train after they were kicked off for “laughing too loudly”.


The Napa Wine Train

Eleven women, who were travelling as part of the “Sistahs on the Reading Edge Book Club”, were making their annual Napa Valley wine trip in August when they were asked to leave the train for laughing and talking and laughing too loudly. The group were escorted from the train, which they described as a “humiliating” experience speaking to the San Francisco Chronicle.

One of the women involved, Lisa Renee Johnson, documented the incident as it unfolded on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #laughingwhileblackdetailing, sparking a social media storm. As a result, two members of the book club have reportedly lost their jobs, a nurse and a financial services executive.

The women were given a full refund by the train company and Tony Gaccio, the Napa Wine Train’s chief executive officer, issued an apology admitting that his company had been “100% wrong” in its handling of the incident. However the women have since lodged an $11m racial discrimination lawsuit against the Napa Wine Train in an effort to raise awareness that racism still exists in America.

Speaking to The Guardian, Johnson said: “We feel it is really important for us to speak up. “Racism is something we are going through as a country. We hope that as a result of this [lawsuit], people will start to look more at their internal biases. We were a book club going out for the day to celebrate a birthday, and we ended up being left in a dirt lot just because someone thought we didn’t deserve to be in a white space”.

At the time Kira Devitt, a spokesperson for the Napa Wine Train, said it had received complaints from several parties in the same carriage and that staff had requested for the group to keep the noise to an acceptable level three times. The group were later removed from the train and offered transportation back to the station in Napa, added Devitt.

The women are being represented by Bay Area civil rights lawyer, Waukeen McCoy. A statement released on Thursday by McCoy said: “The goal of this lawsuit is to ensure that this sort of racial discrimination does not happen to anyone else. These are highly educated, successful, and well-respected women in their community, and the treatment they received was disgraceful and illegal.”

The lawsuit comes just weeks after the Napa Wine Train, founded by Rice-a-Roni mogul Vincent DeDomenico in 1989, was sold to a Seattle-based hotel company. The family of DeDomenico, who died in 2007 at the age of 92, confirmed the sale of the 25-year-old institution to Noble House Hotels & Resorts, Ltd – a luxury hotel and resort chain – in September.

2 Responses to “Book club files $11m lawsuit against Napa Wine Train”

  1. Matt Knight says:

    This smacks more of gravy train than anything else.

  2. lisa says:

    agreed – posts on other sites covering this have alleged the group was more than once asked politely to tone it down. People riding the same trip have alleged the group was offensive in both volume and content of volume…the use of ‘race card’ does not oblige/require those in proximity to put up with what is alleged inappropriate, by common social standards, behavior.

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