Home Defamation Lawsuits Oberlin College to Pay Local Bakery $37 Million in Defamation Suit

Oberlin College to Pay Local Bakery $37 Million in Defamation Suit

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  • An Ohio court ruled in favor of Gibson’s Bakery in 2019 in a defamation lawsuit filed against Oberlin College.
  • The Gibson family alleged they were defamed by the college following a 2016 shoplifting incident.
  • After two failed appeals, the college will pay the family-owned bakery nearly $37 million.

After five years of litigation, Oberlin College will pay a local Ohio bakery the $36.59 million it’s owed from a 2019 ruling in a defamation suit against the school.

The liberal arts college said Thursday that it will make good on the nearly $37 million it owes Gibson’s Bakery. The announcement comes after the Ohio Supreme Court in August declined to review Oberlin’s request to appeal a lower court’s decision that the school defamed the bakery. 

The lawsuit centers on a 2016 shoplifting incident at the bakery, during which the store owner’s son got in a physical altercation with three Black students. The event caused a period of protest in the community as students and Oberlin College officials alike called out the bakery for racism, Insider reported.

The three students eventually admitted their guilt, and the Gibson family sued the college for defamation in 2017. Two years later, a judge ruled in favor of the Gibsons, and Oberlin was said to owe the business $44 million.

In a response to the August decision on the appeal, Lorna Gibson — an owner of the bakery — penned an op-ed published in Common Sense demanding the payout. 

Gibson detailed how the aftermath of the ordeal has negatively impacted the business she inherited from her late husband and father-in-law and accused Oberlin of refusing to pay up.

“While the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent decision has made us hopeful, if the money doesn’t come through within the next couple months, I’ll be forced to declare bankruptcy and shut the doors of Gibson’s for good,” Gibson wrote.

Oberlin directed its attention toward the future in a statement on Thursday.

“We value our relationship with the city of Oberlin,” its statement said, according to The New York Times. “And we look forward to continuing our support of and partnership with local businesses as we work together to help our city thrive.”

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