The family behind an Ohio bakery has won an $11 million judgment against Oberlin College claiming they suffered backlash from its staff and students amid racism charges.
The owners of Gibson’s Bakery and Market says it was libeled and wrongfully accused of racially profiling students and an Ohio jury reportedly agreed last week.
Three Black students were arrested in November 2016 for allegedly trying to “steal wine or otherwise illegally obtain wine” from the bakery, according to a defamation lawsuit.
From those arrests, the school community, including deans and professors, protested against the bakery and accused it of being racist, according to CNN.
The boycotts, the lawsuit states, had a “devastating effect on Gibson’s Bakery and the Gibson family” after students and community members were urged not to shop at their business.
The school’s Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo and other college staff members “handed out hundreds of copies” of a flyer that stated the bakery had racially profiled its students, the lawsuit states.
The flier specifically told people “DON’T BUY” from Gibson’s Bakery, according to the suit.
“This is a RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION,” the flier read, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also states the bakery suffered damage due to the school promoting 10 other bakeries in the area and telling people that it had severed its business relationship with the bakery.
A jury on Friday found Oberlin College liable for defamation, infliction of intentional emotional distress and intentional interference of business relationships.
Donica Thomas Varner, Oberlin vice president, and general counsel wrote in a statement about the verdict:
“We are disappointed with the verdict and regret that the jury did not agree with the clear evidence our team presented,” the letter said.
“Neither Oberlin College nor Dean Meredith Raimondo defamed a local business or its owners, and they never endorsed statements made by others. Rather, the College and Dr. Raimondo worked to ensure that students’ freedom of speech was protected and that the student demonstrations were safe and lawful, and they attempted to help the plaintiffs repair any harm caused by the student’s protests.”
“Our team will review the jury’s verdict and determine how to move forward,” Varner wrote.