Dozens of people projectile vomiting in a hotel banquet hall sounds like anyone's idea of a nightmare, but for a local NAACP chapter that nightmare became reality two years ago when 127 members became ill after eating what they allege was norovirus-tainted fish at Redwood City's Hotel Sofitel. The Chronicle reports that many of the conference attendees had to be rushed to the hospital, and that a former mayor of Oakland slipped into a coma. Now the group is suing the hotel chain, alleging both that hotel staff was negligent in the preparation of the meal and that employees, potentially because of the victims' skin color, did nothing to assist the sick crowd.
“This was a terrible scene of involuntary and uncontrollable projectile vomiting that turned the Sofitel Hotel lobby into a grizzly Stephen King movie," the group's attorney, John Burris, said in a statement. “There’s a real sense that this was racially-motivated or racial neglect,” KRON4 reports him as adding.
The ill-fated National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gala dinner in question took place on October 25, 2014, and seemed to be progressing normally until people started eating the salmon. As attendees began to get sick — throwing up into hotel trash cans and, according to the press release, "writhing in pain in the hotel lobby" — the suit alleges that Sofitel offered no assistance.
“Sofitel employees and managers were dismissive and inattentive,” explained attendee Alice Hoffman. "There was neither humanity nor human decency on the part of Sofitel management. Not a compassionate word was uttered to the food poisoning victims nor a blanket or glass of water offered.”
A spokesperson for the hotel told KRON4 that “We are confident their allegations will not hold up in court.” The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
“It does leave you not only with the sense of a bad taste in your mouth," former Oakland mayor Elihu Harris told the Chron, "but also, I think, it leaves you with the idea that you’re not going to necessarily get equal treatment or an equal level of concern that one would hope that a hospitality institution would have when they have served tainted food.”