Rupert Neate, 04/19/2016

Members of a book club who said they were kicked off the Napa Valley Wine Train in California for “laughing while black” have agreed to a confidential financial settlement with the train company.

The 11 women – 10 black and one white – had sued for $11m for racial discrimination after they were kicked off the train because of their “offensive laughter”. Their expulsion from the train, last August, sparked widespread anger on social media with the hashtag #LaughingWhileBlack trending across the country.

The women of The Sistahs on the Reading Edge book club, who had said they were suing not for the money but to raise awareness that racism is still rife in America, have accepted an undisclosed sum in return for withdrawing the case.

The terms of the confidential settlement prevents the women, who had toured national TV studios in the wake of the incident , from talking about the case to the media and does not include any formal acceptance of wrongdoing by the train company.

Waukeen McCoy, a prominent Bay Area civil rights lawyer who represents the women, said his clients were “very happy” about getting the case resolved even though they will not have their day in court.

Asked why the women, ranging in age from their 50s to 85, had decided to settle the case rather than proceed to court , McCoy said: “That’s what happens when you go to court, you get money.”

“Filing a lawsuit promoted a lot of attention to these issues, obviously when there’s a settlement in exchange for dismal [they are no longer able to talk about it],” he said. “The parties are very happy about getting the case resolved. I think they have proved their point.”

McCoy said he hoped the publicity generated by the case would encourage the Wine Train and other businesses into tackling racism and increase diversity training.

Lisa Renee Johnson, the de facto spokeswoman of book club and who was one of the members kicked off the train, said settling the case was “in the best interests of all parties involved” and said proceeding to court would have been beyond the financial means of the book club.

“In the end it made sense for both of us to settle the case,” Johnson said. “I don’t think it would have made a difference to dance it out in the courtroom. The case has got a lot of attention without going to court.

“I still believe we can be change agents, [and] I don’t think I have to go to court to do that,” Johnson said. “Just because we agreed to settle the case, I will not stop what I am doing [raising awareness of racism]. I want to be a change agent and promote healing.”

The Napa Valley Wine Train, which is now under new management, did not respond to requests for comment.

The previous chief executive of the train company, Tony Giaccio, had apologised to the women and conceded his company was “100% wrong” in its handling of “this regrettable treatment of our guests”. But maintained that the ejection of the women was not racially motivated.