Oberlin College tries again to overturn Gibsons’ victory

By Janet Post
June 13, 2022

Oberlin College officials filed an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court May 13 following two consecutive losses both in a jury trial and in the state Court of Appeals in the case brought by the Gibson family, owners of the bakery store in the campus town. The Gibsons’ case is part of a fight they have been waging against a defamatory assault and race-baiting smears by college administrators and staff that has crippled their business since 2016.

Ohio’s Ninth District Court of Appeals unanimously upheld on March 31 a 2019 Lorain County trial court jury verdict awarding the Gibson family $31 million including $6.5 million in attorney’s fees. Daily interest accrued during the college’s appeal has added $4.5 million to the judgment.

The district court’s ruling was a victory both for the Gibson family and for the rights of working people. “It is now time to honor the jury’s verdict. It is time to execute on the judgment awarded by them,” said a statement by the Gibsons’ lawyers addressing the wealthy college’s Supreme Court appeal.

Due to a state limit on civil damages, the original jury award of $41 million was reduced by $10 million by the trial judge. After Oberlin College appealed to the state Supreme Court, the Gibsons filed their own appeal, seeking to have the cap declared unconstitutional as applied to their case.

As a condition of granting a stay on Oberlin having to pay the judgment, the county court ordered the college to procure a $36 million bond, with interest, to guarantee the family would be paid if college officials lost the appeal. The bond is held by the Zurich American Insurance Company. Oberlin College’s appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court isn’t mandatory. The court will decide if the questions involved are unresolved and the issues at stake are weighty enough to require further review. It could refuse to hear an appeal.

The Gibsons filed a motion May 27 to make Zurich pay the judgment now, pointing out the college had failed to file any motion to extend the stay pending the appeal to the state Supreme Court.