Court won’t hear appeal in Oberlin College $25M judgment
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday said it would not take up an appeal of a $25 million judgment against Oberlin College in a business’ lawsuit claiming it was libeled by the school after a shoplifting incident involving three Black students.
The court did not say why it would not hear the appeal. The 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron upheld the judgment in late March.
Oberlin College in a statement said officials are disappointed the Supreme Court did not hear the school’s appeal.
“The issues raised by this case have been challenging, not only for the parties involved, but for the entire Oberlin community,” the statement said.
Store 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 compensatory and punitive damages in June 2019 after a five week trial. A judge later reduced the award to $25 million.
David Gibson died in November 2019 at age 65. Allyn Gibson died in February. He was 93.