Lawsuit Filed Against Knoxville Hotel Group for Alleged Racial Discrimination, Contract Breach

KNOXVILLE, TENN. — Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (BS&J) of Nashville, Tennessee, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against White Avenue Hotel Partners, Development Services Group, Inc., and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., owners and operators of the Four Points by Sheraton Knoxville Cumberland House Hotel, located at 1009 White Avenue in Knoxville.

The suit was filed Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Plaintiffs Don Marie and Kyle Jackson filed the suit seeking redress for racial discrimination and breach of contract, which allegedly occurred during their September 2017 stay at the hotel. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants’ actions violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.

“This lawsuit was filed on behalf of a mother and son who came to Knoxville from New Orleans during the mandatory evacuation ordered for the Gulf Coast as a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Katia,” said Ben Gastel, partner with BS&J. “When the hurricane activity continued, the Jacksons’ efforts to extend their reservation with the hotel were denied due to their race — despite their ability and willingness to pay in advance, and despite the fact that they were able to confirm room availability through the national desk. The Jacksons were forced to endure discrimination, hostility and ill treatment by the hotel staff in full view of other guests, causing embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress — and at a time when they were particularly vulnerable. This treatment is unacceptable, and violates the federally protected rights of the plaintiffs to exercise and enjoy equal treatment without regard for race or color.”

The lawsuit alleges that:

  • The plaintiffs were discriminated against on the basis of their race;
  • The plaintiffs were denied the same right to enjoy the benefits, privilege, terms and conditions of a contract that is enjoyed by white citizens;
  • The plaintiffs were denied the full and equal enjoyment of the services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations of a place of public accommodation; and
  • The plaintiffs’ contract with the defendants was breached.

The alleged discrimination includes:

  • Failing to allow the plaintiffs to remain in the hotel, even though they had a valid reservation and rooms were available;
  • Failing to allow the plaintiffs to complete their stay as required by the parties’ contract and as offered to other similarly situated hotel guests;
  • Using the plaintiffs’ race as an indication of their unfitness to remain in the hotel and evicting them as a result of their race;
  • Calling the police even though the plaintiffs had done nothing wrong, had followed all rules and regulations, and were able and willing to pay their bill; and
  • Mandating that they leave the hotel under police escort in full view of other guests.

“The conduct displayed by hotel staff and management during our stay was appalling,” said Kyle Jackson. “The prejudice and hostile treatment my mother and I experienced cannot be overlooked. We bring this claim not only to try and correct the personal injustices we experienced, but to help bring awareness and ensure that others do not have to suffer the same kind of discrimination.”

The plaintiffs demand a jury trial and judgments that include:

  • Violation of the Civil Rights Act and the Tennessee Human Rights Act;
  • Breach of contract;
  • Compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by a jury; and
  • Attorney fees and costs.

Additional information about the suit can be found at www.bsjfirm.com.

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About Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (www.bsjfirm.com)  

For more than 65 years, Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC has been known for the quality of its advocacy and the integrity of its attorneys. The firm enjoys a national reputation of prominence in the complex litigation arena for its work in class actions, shareholder derivative claims, securities, ERISA, labor and employment, and other complex cases, both at the trial and appellate levels.

Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is dedicated to providing a full range of legal services to its diverse clientele. In addition to providing quality legal services, the firm is proud of the professional and civic leadership its members have provided, both locally and nationally. The firm’s former managing partner, Jane Branstetter Stranch, was nominated by President Obama to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and now serves as a judge on that court following her confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers, and was recently named among “Best Law Firms” by U.S. News & World Report for 2017, receiving the highest possible Nashville ranking as a Tier 1 in two practice areas.