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OBERLIN, Ohio (WJW) — Oberlin College and Conservatory has fully paid the penalty ordered after it was found liable of defaming a local family-operated bakery in 2019.
A college spokesperson confirmed to FOX 8 News that the damages awarded — totaling $36.6 million with interest — have been paid in full to Gibson’s Bakery. The spokesperson declined to make any further comment.
Bakery owners Allyn Gibson and his son, David Gibson, sued Oberlin College in November 2017 claiming they had been libeled by the school and their business had been harmed. The lawsuit was filed a year after David Gibson’s son, also named Allyn, chased and tackled a Black male student he suspected of having stolen a bottle of wine. Two Black female students who were with the male student tried to intervene. All three were arrested and later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
The arrests triggered protests outside Gibson’s Bakery where flyers were handed out, some by an Oberlin College vice president and dean of students, accusing the Gibsons of being racist. A Student Senate resolution condemning the Gibsons was emailed to all students and was posted in a display case at school’s student center, where it remained for a year. Oberlin College officials ordered its campus food provider to stop buying bakery items from Gibson’s.
A Lorain County jury awarded the Gibsons $44 million in 2019, but a judge later reduced that award to $25 million.
The college appealed the decision in May of this year. The Ohio Supreme Court in August declined to hear the college’s appeal, and the college chose not to pursue the matter further. The college began making payments in September, according to a statement from that month.
“Oberlin’s core mission is to provide our students with a distinctive and outstanding undergraduate education. The size of this verdict is significant,” the statement reads. “However, our careful financial planning, which includes insurance coverage, 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.”