Last week Oberlin College lost its fight to pay Gibson’s Bakery $31 million after losing a lawsuit for falsely claiming the business was racist. (Dake Kang / AP)
By Jack Davis April 3, 2022 at 3:13pm
An Ohio college’s attempt to trash a family-run bakery as racist and then get out of paying a court settlement has crashed and burned.
Oberlin College last week lost its bid to get out of paying $31 million over a case linked to a 2016 incident in which three black Oberlin students were caught stealing wine from the store, according to the Washington Examiner.
Although the suspects admitted to the charges they faced, the college led the way in accusing the store’s owners of racism in protests that damaged the store’s business.
The 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron on Thursday said Oberlin must pay Gibson’s Bakery and Food Mart $6.3 million in legal fees, according to the Associated Press.
The legal fees come on top of a $25 million settlement, making this the largest case of its kind in Ohio.
The state appeals court rejected efforts by the bakery to have the amount restored to the initial $44 million it was given by a jury.
The court also threw out efforts by Oberlin to have a new trial.
Bakery owners David Gibson and Allyn Gibson have since died, attorney Lee Plakas said, according to the Chronicle-Telegram.
“The Gibsons fought the good fight, as the family has done for over 130 years,” he said. “Somewhere high above us, Grandpa and Dave Gibson are smiling to know that the truth still matters.”
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Plakas said the verdict “shows that the judges recognized the importance of the case on both a regional and national level and methodically and insightfully dissected the evidence and the record which supported the verdict.”
“I was very impressed with the judges’ command of and reference to specific evidentiary portions of the very large record that confirmed, even to the judges, that in fact truth does still matter,” he said.
The college said it was disappointed not to get its way.
“We are reviewing the Court’s opinion carefully as we evaluate our options and determine next steps,” it said in a statement. “In the meantime, we recognize that the issues raised by this case have been challenging, not only for the parties involved in the lawsuit, but for the entire Oberlin community.”
Although the college had insisted the case was all about the right to protest, the unanimous ruling said that was not so.
“The primary focus of the media coverage, and the several amicus briefs filed in this case, has been on an individual’s First Amendment right to protest and voice opinions in opposition to events occurring around them locally, nationally and globally. This Court must emphasize, however, that the sole focus of this appeal is on the separate conduct of Oberlin and [former Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith] Raimondo that allegedly caused damage to the Gibsons, not on the First Amendment rights of individuals to voice opinions or protest,” the ruling said.
“The Gibsons also presented evidence that they had been continually taunted and harassed for many months, that their business and property had been vandalized, and that Grandpa Gibson had broken his back after an encounter with someone he believed was trying to harass him or break into his apartment,” the ruling said, adding that the court “cannot conclude that reasonable minds could only conclude that this conduct failed to rise to the level of extreme and outrageous.”
Conservative commentator Michelle Malkin weighed in even before the college had finished its efforts to avoid responsibility for its actions.
“For decades, grievance-mongering Oberlin elites have bullied and defamed innocent white people without consequences in their multicultural Ohio enclave,” she wrote in a 2019 Op-Ed for the Daily Signal.
“False racial allegations and toxic identity politics are the bread and butter of Oberlin campus life,” she wrote.