Oberlin College finishes paying $25M judgement in libel suit


OBERLIN. Ohio (AP) — Oberlin College has completed paying out a $25 million judgment to an Ohio bakery that won a libel lawsuit against the school after a shoplifting incident involving three Black students.

The store’s owners, Allyn Gibson and his son, David Gibson, sued Oberlin College in 2017, claiming they had been libeled by the school and their business had been harmed following protests over the shoplifting.

The yearlong legal fight involving a school and town known for its liberal leanings erupted into a debate over racism, free speech and political correctness.

A Lorain County jury in 2019 awarded the Gibsons $44 million in damages, which a judge later reduced to $25 million. The Ohio Supreme Court in August said it would not take up an appeal of the judgment.

All of the money has now been paid, Brandon McHugh, attorney for the Gibsons, told WKYC-TV in Cleveland on Thursday.

In addition to the $25 million judgement, the school paid more than $11 million in attorney fees and interest.

The lawsuit was filed after David Gibson’s son, also named Allyn, chased and tackled a Black male student he suspected of having stolen a bottle of wine in 2016. 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 the 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.

In a statement earlier this fall, Oberlin College said it hoped the end of the litigation would begin the healing for the community.

The two original owners who brought the suit have since died. David Gibson died in November 2019 at age 65. Allyn Gibson died in February. He was 93.

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