OBERLIN, OHIO: An Ohio jury recently sent a clear message in the case of Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College: The truth still matters.
After an intense trial that lasted nearly six weeks, the 134-year-old family bakery was awarded $33.2 million in punitive damages in addition to $11 million in compensatory damages. But despite the jury’s verdicts against Oberlin College and its Vice President and Dean of Students on libel, tortious interference with business relationships and intentional infliction of emotional distress, officials at Oberlin College continue to propagate a narrative that the case is an issue of free speech.
To bring further light to the testimony heard by the jury, attorneys representing the Gibson family have published a list of frequently asked questions outlining the arguments and evidence presented at trial. The 56-page document, containing court exhibits and trial transcripts, is available here.
“In the wake of the national attention the verdict has received, we believe the public has a right to know the facts of this case as they were presented to the jury,” said Lee Plakas, managing partner of Tzangas Plakas Mannos Ltd. “When forming an opinion on this case, it is important to rely solely on the facts. The evidence presented to the jury speaks for itself.”
The record-setting judgment has attracted national attention. It stems from events that occurred in November 2016, when three black Oberlin College students were arrested following a shoplifting incident at Gibson’s Bakery. The next day, protesters descended on the small family-owned store claiming the arrests were a result of racial profiling. In a protest comprised of Oberlin students, with evidence of involvement by faculty and administrators, the Gibsons were publicly shamed as racists with a longstanding history of discrimination. And a boycott was called for Gibson’s Bakery.
The jury was presented with substantial evidence that Oberlin College aided students in the dissemination of defamatory materials and ordered the suspension of a more than 100-year-old business relationship. In court, the college presented no evidence of racial profiling or discrimination by Gibson’s Bakery. Additionally, the students involved in the shoplifting incident confessed to their crimes and admitted the arrests were not racially motivated.
The jury also heard evidence that the college clearly acted in ways that went far beyond ensuring a safe environment for protesters. This included passing out flyers that the Court determined to be libelous per se, issuing instructions through a bullhorn, purchasing gloves, refreshments, and food for the protesters, suggesting college facilities for protesters to print flyers, and allowing a defamatory student senate resolution to remain posted in the student union for more than a year.
“The recent efforts of Oberlin College and President Carmen Twillie Ambar to reframe this case as a First Amendment issue, while undermining the jury’s decision, should be incredibly concerning to us all,” said Plakas. “Even after the jury’s verdict, the college refuses to take responsibility for its actions.”
The Gibson family’s legal team included TPM Attorney Lee E. Plakas serving as lead counsel and Attorneys Brandon W. McHugh and Jeananne M. Ayoub serving as trial counsel.
About Tzangas Plakas Mannos Ltd.
Since our founding in 1957, Tzangas Plakas Mannos Ltd. has provided the highest level of expert counsel and aggressive representation to those we serve. Based in Canton, Ohio, we have built a law firm that addresses the needs of clients effectively by professionals who combine unparalleled courtroom experience with real world common sense. Our uncommon representation yields extraordinary results, including numerous record-setting, multimillion-dollar verdicts. When major disputes arise, regardless if our client is an individual, a family-owned business, or a multinational corporation, our firm devotes its unmatched experience and aggressively represents those that we serve. For more information, visit www.lawlion.com.
CONTACT: Lee E. Plakas, Managing Partner Attorney – Canton (330) 455-6112; Brandon W. McHugh, Attorney – Canton (330) 455-6112; Jeananne M. Ayoub, Attorney – Canton (330) 455-6112.