Commentary: Oberlin Learns a $31 Million Lesson for Falsely Accusing a Local Family Business of Racism

On March 31, 2022, an Ohio Appeals Court upheld a lower court verdict against Oberlin College awarding  $31.2 million to a local bakery on the grounds that, among other things, the College and its Dean of Students defamed the business.

There has been much reporting about the incident that sparked the lawsuit against Oberlin and the potential negative impact of the court’s decision on the rights of students to engage in free speech and protest.

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Oberlin Loses Appeal After Defaming Local Bakery

An appellate court this week upheld a lower court’s ruling that a local bakery was defamed by Oberlin College, a private liberal arts schools in Ohio.

In 2019, Oberlin was ordered to pay the maximum of $11 million in compensatory damages, $33 million in punitive damages, plus more than $6 million in attorneys fees to Gibson’s Bakery, a town staple that had served students at the school for generations, and even had a contract to sell some of its products to the school. 

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Gibson’s Bakery Cross-Appeal Brief Seeks Original $33 Million in Punitive Damages from Oberlin College

Gibson’s Bakery filed a cross-appeal brief Monday after Oberlin College filed its appeals brief last week seeking to overturn a trial court’s decision which made the college pay the bakery $25 million in damages.

The damages relate to Oberlin College making defamatory statements about the bakery after three minority students plead guilty to shoplifting. After these three students plead guilty, Oberlin College students not involved in the case accused Gibson’s Bakery of racial profiling, held protests outside the bakery, and said the store had “a long account of racial profiling and discrimination.”

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Oberlin College Hit With Maximum Punitive Damages, Must Pay $33 Million to Gibson’s Bakery

  A jury ordered Oberlin College to pay $33 million in punitive damages Thursday to Gibson’s Bakery, an on-campus business that the school falsely accused of racial profiling. As The Ohio Star reported last week, the Gibson family was awarded $11 million in compensatory damages. State law caps punitive damages…

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Legal Expert Says Oberlin College’s Response to Verdict Could Hurt Them in Punitive Damages Hearing

  Oberlin College was ordered by a jury last week to pay $11 million in damages to a family bakery on campus that was falsely accused of racial profiling, but the monetary reward could triple during a punitive damages hearing scheduled for Tuesday. As The Ohio Star reported Sunday: The…

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Oberlin College Ordered to Pay $11 Million to Bakery it Wrongly Accused of Racism

  A jury has ordered Oberlin College to pay $11 million in damages to a family bakery on its campus that was falsely accused of racial profiling and faced months of student protests. The bakery, called Gibson’s Bakery, has operated on campus since 1885 and had a business relationship with…

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