Oberlin not yet on the hook for defamation case, Ohio Supreme Court rules

By: - August 12, 2022 3:50 am

Photo by Krisanapong Detraphiphat/Getty Images.

An Ohio college still won’t be required to pay damages to a local bakery, based on a ruling in an ongoing defamation case with the Ohio Supreme Court.

The case started in 2017, after an incident at a store owned by the Gibson family the year before. A member of the family who was working at the store and bakery accused and pursued two Oberlin students, making claims of shoplifting. The students later pleaded guilty to charges, but the Gibsons were accused of racial profiling for which protests were organized.

College administrators, including the dean of students, were named as participants in the protests in court documents.

Pressure from students caused the administration to direct food services to stop supplying the campus with food from the bakery as well.

“During the next several months, the Gibsons believed that they lost business and became the targets of what they perceived to be ongoing harassment by Oberlin and its students,” documents from a lower court decision stated.

The court seemed to agree with the family, awarding more than $30 million in damages.

The college appealed, however, to the Ohio Supreme Court in May of this year, and as the appeal continues, Oberlin asked that the court hold off on enforcing the payment of damages to the bakery.

In asking the state’s highest court for a further pause in paying the debt, the college said it filed a bond for the funds, which comes with a condition that the debt does not need to be paid “until the exhaustion of all of Defendants’ appeals.”

The decision means the bakery may have to wait until after the supreme court makes a formal decision in the case, either to uphold the $36 million damages for the bakery, or make changes to the lower court’s decision.

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.