ELYRIA, Ohio — An Ohio judge slashed a $44 million award won by the owners of a neighborhood bakery who accused Oberlin College of ruining their business by encouraging protests against them and branding them racists.
On Thursday, Judge John Miraldi of Lorain County’s Court of Common Pleas reduced the total award to $25 million. He ruled that David Gibson should receive $14 million in compensatory and punitive damages, also awarding Gibson’s father and family patriarch Allyn Gibson $6.5 million and their Oberlin business, Gibson’s Bakery, $4.5 million.
The protests occurred after three black students were arrested for assaulting David Gibson’s son, who is white and also named Allyn, after he caught one of them shoplifting two bottles of wine from the market in November 2016 and ran after him. At the time, the college reported that Allyn Gibson put a student in a chokehold, and the other two students intervened.
The students pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and read statements in court saying that Allyn Gibson’s actions that day were not racially motivated.
The lawsuit claimed that college officials encouraged and participated in the two days of protests after the arrests. The school for a month stopped buying baked goods from Gibson’s, and it stopped again after the family filed suit in 2017.
Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar and Board of Trustees President Chris Canavan told alumni during a conference call Thursday night that the school can pay the judgment amount if required, but officials hoped it would be reduced during further legal proceedings, The Elyria Chronicle-Telegram reported.
Earlier this month, the school was ordered to pay $44 million — $11 million in compensatory damages and $33 million in punitive — to the Gibsons.
David Gibson has said the jury awards were a “clear vindication” for his family, their business and their reputations.