Article Image

IPFS News Link • Lawsuits

Oberlin must pay record $31M award to bakery it defamed as racist, says appeals court

• by Greg Wilson

Gibson's Bakery, a 135-year-old family business near the campus of Oberlin College, was initially awarded more than $40 million in punitive and compensatory damages in the aftermath of a 2016 incident in which the owner's son confronted three black Oberlin students who were stealing wine from the store. Although the suspects were arrested and later admitted they were shoplifting, the episode touched off school-sanctioned protests and accusations of racism that crippled the store's business.

"At trial, it was absolutely clear to the jury (as reflected by the verdict) that there was not a shred of truth in the vicious statements about the Gibsons and that the College caused the devastating harm," the law firm representing the Gibson family said after winning the case. "The truth prevailed."

The initial award by Lorain County Judge John Miraldi in 2019 was later reduced to $25 million plus $6 million in legal fees. In the latest development, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously upheld the award.