OBERLIN, Ohio — Owners of a market accused of racism have been awarded more than $44 million in a lawsuit claiming Oberlin College hurt their business and libeled them.
The jury in Lorain County, Ohio, awarded David Gibson, son Allyn Gibson and Gibson’s Bakery $33 million in punitive damages Thursday. That comes on top of an award a day earlier of $11 million in compensatory damages.
Oberlin spokesman Scott Wargo declined to comment.
The protests occurred after Allyn Gibson, who is white, confronted a black student who had shoplifted wine in November 2016. Two other black students joined in and assaulted Gibson.
The episode triggered protests against the business.
An Oberlin attorney argued the school has subsequently become a better community partner and works with students to be good neighbors.
Oberlin College issued the following statement:
Dear Members of the Oberlin Community,
By now many of you will have heard about the latest development in the Gibson's Bakery lawsuit, a jury's declaration of punitive damages against Oberlin. Let me be absolutely clear: This is not the final outcome. This is, in fact, just one step along the way of what may turn out to be a lengthy and complex legal process. I want to assure you that none of this will sway us from our core values. It will not distract, deter, or materially harm our educational mission, for today's students or for generations to come.
We will take the time we need to thoughtfully consider the course that is in Oberlin's best interests. I will update the community as we make these decisions. I am confident that when we resolve this matter, it will look substantially different than it looks today.
We are disappointed in the jury's decisions and the fragmentary and sometimes distorted public discussion of this case. But we respect the integrity of the jury, and we value our relationship with the town and region that are our home. We will learn from this lawsuit as we build a stronger relationship with our neighbors.
This has been a remarkable year for the college and conservatory. There is unprecedented unity around an ambitious new vision for Oberlin. The work of fulfilling that vision is already underway. Long after this lawsuit has receded from memory, that work will shape Oberlin's future. I appreciate the contributions so many of you have made, your perspective at this important time, and the commitment you have shown to what matters most for Oberlin.
Carmen Twillie Ambar