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Ohio Supreme Court ordered Oberlin College to pay nearly $40 million to local bakery because it branded the store as racist

Oberlin College in Ohio said on Thursday that it will pay roughly $37 million to a local bakery that sued the school for libel following an incident involving three Black students that occurred in 2016. The shoplifting incident occurred in 2016.

The Oberlin College’s appeal of a lower court ruling that ordered the college to pay $25 million to Gibson’s Bakery was denied by the Ohio Supreme Court one month ago. Gibson’s Bakery had accused the college of branding the store as racist and causing financial harm to the bakery as a result of this branding.

In a statement that was supplied to CBS MoneyWatch, Oberlin College said, “We are saddened by the Court’s judgment. However, this does not reduce our respect for the law and the integrity of our legal system.” Everyone has been hurt by this situation, and we have high hopes that the conclusion of the case will mark the beginning of the healing process for our entire community.

Student demonstrations in response to arrests

Allyn Gibson, the son of bakery owner David Gibson, gave pursuit to and tackled an African-American male student in November of 2016, after he suspected that the student had stolen a bottle of wine from the bakery. Two Black female students who were with the Black male student attempted to step in and mediate the situation. After their arrest, all three of them eventually entered guilty pleas to misdemeanor counts.

Student demonstrations were organized in response to the arrests and took place outside Gibson’s, where posters were distributed accusing the proprietors of racist business practices. A resolution against Gibsons that was passed by the Student Senate was sent out to all of the students in the form of an email, and it was also put on display in the student center of the school, where it remained for a whole academic year. Officials at Oberlin College sent instructions to the college’s food service provider to discontinue purchasing bread goods from the family-owned company that has been in operation for over a century.

Gibson’s filed a lawsuit against the college and a dean at the institution in November of 2017, claiming them of slandering the bakery as a “racist establishment” and damaging the bakery’s business as a result of their actions.

After a trial that lasted for five weeks, a local jury in June 2019 decided that the Gibsons were entitled to $44 million in compensation and punitive damages. After further consideration, the judge lowered the award to $25 million.

David Gibson passed away in November 2019, when he was 65 years old. In February, his father, Allyn Gibson, passed away at the age of 93.

The law company that represented the bakery, Plakas Mannos, expressed their delight with Oberlin’s decision not to seek any more appeals.

The law firm sent a statement to CBS MoneyWatch in which it declared, “Truth still matters, and David has triumphed over Goliath.” “Now, the Gibsons will be in a position to restore the business that their family established 137 years ago and maintain it for another generation,”

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