Black Women's Book Club Files $11M Lawsuit Against Napa Valley Wine Train for Discrimination
The members claim the company discriminated against them because of their race.
— -- A group of predominantly African-American women who are part of a women's book club that was kicked off a Napa Valley Wine Train in California for allegedly being "too loud" has filed an $11 million lawsuit against the company, according to a court complaint.
The incident happened Aug. 22, when they say a customer complained and the eight members of the Sistahs on the Reading Edge Book Club and three friends of the club, including one white woman, were then "paraded" through six cars and forced to get off, where they were met by police, according to Lisa Johnson, the book club's founder.
"That was the most humiliating experience that I have ever had in my entire life," Johnson, 47, said with tears in her eyes at a news conference Thursday. "This is 2015, and this just cannot happen again."
The incident sparked outrage on social media, where the hashtag #laughingwhileblack trended.
In addition to allegations of racial discrimination, the women are also suing the company for libel, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress, according to the court complaint obtained by ABC News.
The women's lawyer, Waukeen McCoy, told ABC News today that the premise of such allegations came from a Facebook post the company wrote, that said in part, "Following verbal and physical abuse towards other guests and staff, it was necessary to get our police involved."
"Two of the members have been terminated from their jobs because of the lies the company said in that Facebook post," McCoy said.
The post has since been removed, and the company issued the women a full refund, apologized for the women's "terrible experience" and the "inaccurate post" and offered a free ride.
But the women believed the apology was "disingenuous" and rejected the offer, McCoy said. He added that they hope the $11 million they are asking for in general damages, along with special and punitive damages, "will prevent the company from ever doing anything like this again."
"Black people are being treated differently in America," he said. "We believe this lawsuit will highlight this. We want to have the conversation about these issues, and we hope this lawsuit will help rectify such issues and expose folks who aren't treating people fairly."
The Napa Valley Wine Train said in a statement to ABC News that it takes allegations of discrimination very seriously and has hired a former FBI agent to investigate the lawsuit's allegations. The company added that it will "have the appropriate response to the complaint" after an investigation has been conducted.