Last Updated on December 21, 2022
Oberlin College in Ohio has paid out over $36 million to Gibson’s Bakery and Food Mart as a result of a years-long defamation lawsuit. A jury decided that Oberlin College had defamed the business in 2020, a decision that the learning institution had unsuccessfully fought to overturn.
The lawsuit can be traced back to a 2016 incident in which Allyn Gibson, the son of Gibson’s Bakery and Food Mart owners David Gibson and Allyn Gibson, pursued and tackled a black student accused of stealing a beverage from the store. Two additional students — both of whom were also black — intervened on the student’s behalf and got into a physical confrontation with Gibson.
The three students were then arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, according to court documents. Oberlin College students then held continuous protests outside the store.
In one demonstration, former Oberlin College vice president and dean of students Meredith Raimondo handed out flyers stating that the bakery was a “RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION,” court documents state.
It was later found that college resources were used to print the flyers and buy the protesters Pizza. In addition, the school stopped doing business with Gibson’s.
Oberlin College provided logistical support for protesters, including pizza and copying of defamatory flyers https://t.co/YpDtTQgAPg pic.twitter.com/A0fPFRK8j0
— Legal Insurrection (@LegInsurrection) June 15, 2019
In 2017, the Gibson’s Bakery and Food Mart owners sued Oberlin College, alleging that the school falsely accused them of racism and hurt their business.
Oberlin College was eventually judged to have defamed the grocery store by a jury in 2019 and ordered to pay out $44 million in damages. This fee was lowered to $25 million, though a court ordered Oberlin College to pay an additional $6 million for legal defenses in 2019.
Brandon McHugh, an attorney representing the owners, confirmed to local outlet WKYC that the funds had been received this past Friday. “We can confirm that all funds have been disbursed and that the family is continuing with the process of rebuilding Gibson’s Bakery for the next generations,” McHugh said.
Oberlin College had appealed the matter all the way up to the Ohio Supreme Court, which declined to review the matter.