Oberlin College is facing more than $4 million in interest after refusing to pay the $31.6 million fine an Ohio court awarded to Gibson’s Bakery, for libeling the business with false racism allegations.
The Chronicle reports that Oberlin has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to issue an order stopping payment of the $36 million the family-owned bakery was awarded, while the liberal arts school appeals two lower court decisions.
Oberlin was ordered to pay the bakery and its owners, the Gibson family, millions in damages after a jury found the college and one of its former vice presidents, Meredith Raimondo, libeled the family and its business and intentionally inflicted emotional distress on them.
The jury also found that the school intentionally interfered with the bakery’s business, according to The Chronicle.
The bakery’s attorneys asked Lorain County Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi to order the college to pay the judgment in a court filing on May 27, saying it failed to file a motion with the 9th District Court of Appeals to stop the process.
The jury originally awarded the bakery and its owners $44 million, but Miraldi reduced the amount after reviewing applicable state law, according to The Chronicle.
The news outlet reports that the monetary award now totals more than $36 million, including the $31.6 million in damages the bakery won in July 2019, plus interest, or approximately $4,300 per day for the 1,064 days since the decision.
To ensure the judgment can be paid if its appeals are unsuccessful, Oberlin College got an appeal bond through Zurich American Insurance Co. and the terms of the bond “requires the exhaustion of all appeals before it becomes collectible,” the Ohio Supreme Court filing said.
Oberlin students and staff members branded the 137-year-old family business racist after the Gibsons called the police on three black shoplifters who stole wine and attacked a staff member in 2016. The three were later convicted, according to the Daily Mail.
Lee Plakas, the Gibsons’ attorney, told the Mail in April that the college's false accusations of racism continue to hurt the family today.
“Business has suffered and the family is doing everything they possibly can to continue the bakery's tradition,” he said, noting how the bakery was forced to lay off employees, going from nearly a dozen staff members to three or four.
Plakas said the Gibsons were forced to scale down operations because business has become so slow and that “they're just trying to hold on until the justice system forces the college to pay for the damages they caused.”
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