'David has overcome Goliath': Oberlin College makes $36.5M defamation payout to bakery it accused of racism
The college tried to appeal the case in the Ohio Supreme Court, which announced on August 30 that it would not take up the issue
OBERLIN, OHIO: Oberlin College, which was ordered by the court to pay $36.5 million in settlement to Gibson’s Bakery, has finally made the full payment. It was found that the reputed establishment defamed the business by calling it “racist” after a shoplifting incident involving three Black students from the college.
According to The Daily Mail, the college tried to appeal the case in the Ohio Supreme Court, which announced on August 30 that it would not take up the issue. Oberlin College was ordered to pay the damages to the owners of Gibson's Bakery, who had accused the college of ruining their business by branding them as racists. Brandon McHugh, the lawyer for the bakery, celebrated the huge settlement saying, “With Oberlin's decision to not pursue any additional appeals, the Gibson family's fight is finally over.” He added, “Truth still matters, and David has overcome Goliath.”
According to The Daily Mail, store owners Allyn Gibson and his son, David Gibson (both now deceased), sued Oberlin College in November 2017 claiming that they had been libeled by the school and that their business was harmed. For the unversed, the case stems from a 2016 shoplifting incident when a Black male student stole a bottle of wine and two Black female students intervened. All three were arrested and later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
Following the arrests, some students, faculty members, and employees from the college protested against the bakery, alleging racism. The lawyer for Gibson Family stated, “While Oberlin College has still refused to admit they were wrong, the jury, a unanimous panel from the court of appeals, and a majority of the Ohio Supreme Court decided otherwise.”
He added, “Now, the Gibson’s will be able to rebuild the business their family started 137 years ago and keep the lights on for another generation.” The Daily Mail reported that jurors awarded Gibson’s $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages in 2019 after a five-week trial. However, the award was later reduced to $25 million and $6 million in legal fees. The award rose again after a series of appeals.
School officials said in a statement, “We value our relationship with the City of Oberlin, and we look forward to continuing our support of, and partnership with, local businesses as we work together to help our city thrive.” They added, “Our careful financial planning means that we can satisfy our legal obligation without impacting our academic and student experience. It is our belief that the way forward is to continue to support and strengthen the quality of education for our students now and into the future.”