Woman awarded $1m after gas station worker told her: ‘I don’t serve Black people’

A 63-year-old woman awarded $1 million by an Oregon jury after a gas station attendant refused her service because she was Black feels “vindicated,” her lawyer said on Saturday.

Rose Wakefield, of Portland, sued Jacksons Food Stores after stopping at one of the company’s locations in March 2020 in Beaverton, where she continued to wait for service while an attendant pumped gas for white customers who’d arrived after her. (Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states in which it is illegal in most areas for drivers to pump their own gas.)

After complaining and being helped by another attendant, she asked the first person why she’d had to wait and was told “I don’t serve Black people,” according to the lawsuit.

Greg Kafoury represented Ms Wakefield during the four-day civil trial last week in Multnomah County and spoke on Saturday with The New York Times after a jury awarded his client $1m, including $550,000 in punitive damages

“This company deserved to be publicly humiliated just as they had publicly humiliated my client by calling her a liar in court for four days when she had been telling the truth,” he said.

“I went to a gas station to get gas and service, and I wasn’t served. I was actually humiliated and disrespected,” Ms Wakefield told KGW, adding: “I was like, ‘What world am I living in?’

“This is not supposed to go down like that. It was a terrible, terrible confrontation between me and this guy.”

Cory Jackson, the president of Jacksons Food Stores, said in an email to the Times that there was a “zero-tolerance” policy against discrimination and said the company disagreed with the verdict.

“After carefully reviewing all facts and evidence, including video surveillance, we chose to take this matter to trial because we were comfortable based on our knowledge that the service-related concern actually reported by the customer was investigated and promptly addressed,” Mr Jackson said. “As such, we respectfully disagree with the jury’s ruling because our knowledge does not align with the verdict.”