The owners of an Ohio bakery who sued for libel after being targeted by student protests won Friday an $11 million verdict against Oberlin College.
A Lorain County jury ordered Oberlin to pay $11 million in compensatory damages to Gibson’s Bakery, a local fixture since 1885 that was beset by protests and racism allegations after three black students were arrested for shoplifting the day after the 2016 presidential election.
“The jury saw that Oberlin College went out of their way to harm a good family and longtime business in their community for no real reason, and the jury said we aren’t going to tolerate that in our community anymore,” Owen Rarric, an attorney for the Gibsons, told Legal Insurrection.
The award, which could triple at Tuesday’s hearing on punitive damages, came as a warning to universities that encourage social-justice activism as student protests spill from the campus to the local community.
“The verdict sends a strong message that colleges and universities cannot simply wind up and set loose student social justice warriors and then wash their hands of the consequences,” said Cornell Law School professor William Jacobson, who runs the conservative Legal Insurrection website.
Bakery owners said they lost business after Oberlin students held protests accusing them of discrimination. The student Senate passed a resolution claiming Gibson’s had “a long history of racial profiling,” and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo was accused of passing out an anti-Gibson’s flier.
Students boycotted the bakery, while the college cut off and then resumed its contract for baked goods.
Oberlin argued it was not responsible for the students’ actions. Meanwhile, the three students pleaded guilty to shoplifting and aggravated trespass while issuing statements absolving the bakery of racism.
In 2017, Gibson’s sued the college for libel; tortious influence with business relationships and contracts, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, culminating in the nearly month-long trial in Elyria, Ohio.
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[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Valerie Richardson and originally published at The Washington Times. Title changed by P&P.]
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