Oberlin College in Ohio paid a local bakery a more than $36 million judgment for defaming them after a 2016 incident at the business.
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“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,” Brandon McHugh, attorney for Gibson’s Bakery in Oberlin told Cleveland’s WKYC 3News on Thursday.
The lawsuit and damages award came after a 2016 incident where the bakery co-owner’s son, Allyn Gibson, chased and tackled a Black male Oberlin College student suspected of stealing a bottle of wine from the business.
“This is a great day for Gibson’s Bakery,” said national radio host Todd Starnes. “And it’s a bad day for every professional race agitator in the nation. The most effective way to deal with this nationwide scourge is to fight back in the courts.”
According to the WKYC report, two Black female students accompanying the male tried to intervene and all three were arrested by police and later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in the case.
The incident led to protests outside of the bakery with flyers handed out by a college vice president and a dean of students claiming the business was racist and included a resolution to that effect from the student senate of the school which was emailed to all students.
The report said the school also banned its food service provider from using the bakery.
The bakery sued the school for defamation in 2017 and won the case in 2019, with a Lorain County jury awarding the business $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
“We lost so much of the business after the protests that we weren’t getting the business,” co-owner Lorna Gibson told the station. “And so, I couldn’t afford to keep the shelves filled. And then when the pandemic hit, it was like the perfect storm that didn’t help either.”
That amount was later lowered to $25 million and was upheld in September by the Ohio Supreme Court, the report said.
“We are disappointed by the Court’s decision. However, this does not diminish our respect for the law and the integrity of our legal system,” Oberlin College stated in a news release to the news outlet after the court’s decision. “This matter has been painful for everyone. We hope that the end of the litigation will begin the healing of our entire community.”
The Gibson father and son who started the business both passed away before the payment was made, but Lorna Gibson said the business will continue on.
“We’ve always been here,” she said in the report. “We’ve always treated everybody properly and that’s all we just wanted. That’s all we wanted from the start just to continue on our lives and keep the store going.”
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