The Napa Valley Wine Train may be facing a lawsuit from the 11 black women's book club members who were booted off a tour "for laughing and talking too loud." The women plan to seek $5 million for "malicious oppression," civil rights lawyer Waukeen McCoy tells the San Francisco Chronicle. "There must be compensation for the humiliation suffered," he adds.
The trouble started on August 22, when the women posted comments on Facebook describing how they were kicked off the wine train. The incident quickly ignited social media frenzy centered on the hashtag #LaughingWhileBlack. On Tuesday, Napa Valley Wine Train CEO Anthony Giaccio issued a public apology to the women saying the company was "100 percent wrong" and accepted "full responsibility." The Chronicle reports that the members were then offered a 50-seat private railcar, valued at $6,200 for a future visit.
"We're standing our ground on this issue," book club member Lisa Johnson said in a statement to CBS. "I really don't feel that it was a true apology because basically I feel that they're just being directed by their PR person." The book club's lawyer tells the Chronicle he will meet with representatives from the wine train next week to try and work out a financial settlement, noting that similar cases have settled for between $500,000 and $5 million. "They have been humiliated, and we don't want this to happen to anyone else."