|By Terrie Morgan-Besecker, The Times
Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 12, 2008 - SCRANTON -- A New Jersey couple who were denied a room at a Scranton hotel have filed a federal lawsuit against the establishment, alleging they were denied access because they are black.
The suit, filed Friday on behalf of Natasha S. Shumate, Eric Davis and their daughter, Naera Shumate, alleges the Clarion Hotel on Meadow Avenue violated their civil rights by denying them accommodations based on their race.
According to the suit:
Shumate, of Elizabeth, N.J., and Davis, of East Orange, N.J., were visiting a friend in the area on July 12, 2006, when they attempted to obtain a room at the Clarion Hotel, but were told there were no vacancies.
The couple were advised to go to the Comfort Suites on Montage Mountain Road, Moosic. They immediately traveled to the Comfort Suites, but were again told there were no rooms.
The clerk at the Comfort Suites suggested the couple go to the Clarion Hotel because she believed they had rooms available. At Davis' request, the clerk called the Clarion and confirmed the hotel had 52 rooms available.
The suit says the couple returned to the Clarion to obtain a room and were again advised there was none available. At around the same time, Davis observed three white males enter the hotel. They were provided rooms "without hesitation."
Davis asked Lisa Pierce, a front desk clerk, why he was told there were no rooms, to which she replied, "There was a cancellation." When he asked how she could have had 52 cancellations, Pierce replied: "I don't have to explain anything to you. Get out of my hotel."
Davis claims he then asked Pierce if she told him there were no rooms because he is black. He alleges she replied "Yes." He says the encounter was witnessed by several people, including at least two other hotel guests.
A manager at the Clarion, who did not give his name, said Friday he could not comment on the suit. Pierce could not be reached for comment.
The suit, filed by attorneys Craig P. Kalinoski and Robert Buttner of Scranton, names as defendants Pierce, NCDJ Corporation of Birney Avenue, Moosic, which operates the hotel, and Choice Hotels International Inc., the parent company of Clarion Hotels. It seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for violations of the plaintiffs' civil rights and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
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