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Harlem Fast Food Joint Bias Case Ends

Two sides step down in flap pitting trans customers vs. Texas Chicken & Burgers

Attorney Ben Crump, Jonovia Chase, attorney Gennaro Savastano, Daniele Marino, Jahmila Adderley, and Deja Smith at press conference last August outside the Stonewall Inn.
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A lawsuit brought against a Harlem outlet of the Texas Chicken & Burgers chain by five gender non-conforming or transgender people who charged they were denied service there — only to have that allegation refuted by the company in court filings — has been ended by all parties.

“It is hereby stipulated and agreed by and between the below parties and their counsel that… the Complaint (as amended), Counterclaim, and all proceedings hereunder, are fully and voluntarily discontinued with prejudice, and without costs or disbursements to any party,” attorneys for both sides wrote in documents filed in state court on April 1 and again on April 4.

The five plaintiffs — Daniele Marino, Deja Smith, Jahmila Adderley, Jonovia Chase, and Valerie Spencer — charged in a lawsuit last year that they were refused service at the outlet in the early morning hours on May 28. Smith recorded three videos of the transaction and posted them on her Instagram page where they received tens of thousands of views. The videos have since been removed from the page.

Gennaro Savastano, an associate in the appellate unit at Weitz & Luxenberg, a law firm, and the president of the LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York in 2018, and civil rights attorney Ben Crump represented the five plaintiffs. They announced the lawsuit outside the Stonewall Inn last August.

Texas Chicken & Burgers responded first with an apology on its Instagram page and then more aggressively in the lawsuit.

The company filed stills from the outlet’s video showing the five ordering and an order ticket, a credit card receipt showing that one of the five paid for the food they ordered, and the group refusing the food and receiving a cash refund. In a document filed in the case last October, Paul Pennock, a second attorney with Weitz & Luxenberg, wrote that the plaintiffs “Admit that Deja Smith gave her credit card to the cashier.”

The chain also said in a counterclaim that accusing it of discrimination was defamatory.

Cliff Schneider, who represents Texas Chicken & Burgers and is the managing partner at Cohen Schneider Law, in a filing last year, wrote, “The allegations as set forth in the Plaintiffs’ Complaint were pled with intentional disregard for the truth, and the efforts undertaken by Plaintiffs on social and traditional media to paint TC&B as an organization that condones and engages in discrimination of any kind are wholly without merit and do nothing other than strengthen TC&B’s damages for defamation.”

Pennock and Schneider did not respond to emails seeking comment.

Updated 12:44 pm, April 11, 2019
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