A family and a Roanoke restaurant have settled a lawsuit in which the family accused the restaurant of race discrimination.
Lawyers involved in the 2017 case confirmed that the matter was resolved shortly before a trial planned on July 29.
No details of the case outcome were released by either side or in filings with the Roanoke federal court.
Phyllis Williams, 75, of Roanoke, and her daughter, Leah Wynette Williams of Roanoke, accused the Golden Corral at Towne Square Shopping Center and two white employees of falsely accusing the elder Williams of putting chicken legs in her purse while dining in 2017. The Williamses are African American.
A confrontation broke out between restaurant personnel and family members at the family’s table, during which a manager said he would search Phyllis Williams’ purse. The manager then left the table saying he would go look at security video. A police officer called to the restaurant by Leah Williams arrived a short time later and told the family that the restaurant wanted them to leave, according to the account in the suit.
Leah Williams posted videos of the encounter on social media after the incident on Aug. 27, 2017, and the restaurant publicly responded that the matter “was not handled properly.” It pledged to retrain staff. A lawsuit followed about a month later.
The suit said company and employee actions violated the nation’s ban on race-based discrimination in places of public accommodation such as restaurants, stores and theaters.
The Williams family had paid $51.23, including tax, for two adult and two children’s buffets and two soft drinks, according to a receipt filed with the court. The family denied improperly taking any food.
Lisa Annette Lipscomb, 52, who was the Williamses’ server, said in a court filing that she saw Phyllis Williams place food into a plastic bag in her purse. When told by Lipscomb that the all-you-can-eat restaurant charged an additional fee to take out food , Williams family members said that “they had paid for the food and were going to take it,” according to Lipscomb’s account in court papers.
Lipscomb told The Roanoke Times in an interview that the alleged chicken-taking wasn’t captured on the restaurant’s security video, adding it was “kind of dark where she was sitting.” Lipscomb said that she had been fired.
Lipscomb, the restaurant and the manager at the time of the incident, James Ayers, denied wrongdoing and filed legal challenges. In response, a judge dismissed allegations of negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress but cleared the case for trial on the race-related charges as well as allegations of defamation and of negligent hiring and negligent retention.
Mario Williams, an attorney for the Williamses, said by email that the suit had been resolved. Asked to elaborate, he did not respond.
An attorney for Lipscomb confirmed that the case had ended and said she had no further comment. Lipscomb declined to comment. Attorneys for Golden Corral operator Platinum Corral LLC and Ayers did not respond to a request for comment.