State supreme court rejects Oberlin College’s appeal of $36 million verdict against it for falsely branding bakery as racist

State supreme court rejects Oberlin College’s appeal of $36 million verdict against it for falsely branding bakery as racist
Oberlin students accusing bakery of "racism" protest outside it in 2016. NBC 3 Cleveland video

The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Oberlin College of a multimillion dollar verdict against it, for defaming a family-owned bakery by falsely depicting it as having committed racial discrimination against black students. That means the bakery can finally collect on the judgment it was awarded by a jury back in 2019.

“Originally, the judgment against Oberlin was $44 million, but a state law limited the final amount to $25 million, plus $6 million in attorney’s fees. Interest on the judgment has raised the total to about $36 million,” reports The College Fix.

“On behalf of the Gibson family and the trial team, truth still matters, David can still overcome Goliath,” the Gibsons and their lawyers said in a statement released after the Ohio Supreme Court issued its order.

In a statement to the a local newspaper, Oberlin College said, “Oberlin is disappointed that the Ohio Supreme Court has chosen not to hear our appeal of the Gibson’s Bakery judgment against the college. The issues raised by this case have been challenging, not only for the parties involved, but for the entire Oberlin community. We remain committed to strengthening the partnership between the College, the City of Oberlin and its residents, and the downtown business community. We will continue in that important work while remaining focused on our core educational mission.”

William Jacobson, a clinical law professor at Cornell University, said the Ohio Supreme Court decision is likely the end of the line for Oberlin in challenging the verdict.

“Several commenters mention Oberlin College going to federal court. That is a long, long, long shot,” Jacobson wrote at Legal Insurrection. “The appeal would be from the Ohio Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court. The likelihood the U.S. Supreme Court would agree to hear a case the Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear is not zero, but it’s approaching zero.  I would not be shocked if they tried, but they would have to obtain another stay of enforcement of the judgment from the U.S. Supreme Court, another major hurdle that has little likelihood of success.”

In early August, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Oberlin College could wait on paying the judgment while the appeal request was pending.

The case itself was a national news story three years ago, when the jury issued its verdict. As the College Fix notes,

In November 2016, a black Oberlin student was caught trying to steal a bottle of wine from Gibson’s. While chasing him outside the story, a Gibson’s employee wrestled with the student and two other Oberlin students. Police arrived at the scene, and nearly a year later, all three students pled guilty to various crimes.

Despite the students’ admissions of guilt, campus racial grievance groups took action to harm the bakery. Student groups accused Gibson’s of having racially profiled the three students and pushed Oberlin to sever all ties with the bakery, which had supplied its cafeterias with food.

Soon, the Oberlin Student Senate passed a resolution stating Gibson’s “had a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment.” Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo joined the demonstrations, using a bullhorn to shout that the Gibsons were “racist.”

With Oberlin faculty joining in the push to sever ties with the bakery, the college then suspended its ties with Gibson’s between November 14, 2016 and January 30, 2017.

The actions taken by the school were declared defamatory by a jury in 2019.

LU Staff

LU Staff

Promoting and defending liberty, as defined by the nation’s founders, requires both facts and philosophical thought, transcending all elements of our culture, from partisan politics to social issues, the workings of government, and entertainment and off-duty interests. Liberty Unyielding is committed to bringing together voices that will fuel the flame of liberty, with a dialogue that is lively and informative.


For your convenience, you may leave commments below using Disqus. If Disqus is not appearing for you, please disable AdBlock to leave a comment.