Oberlin finally paying the $36.59 million it owes to Gibson's Bakery

After years of legal wrangling, Oberlin College has announced that, following the Ohio Supreme Court's decision not to hear its appeal, it is beginning the process of paying in full the judgment against it for libeling Gibson's Bakery and promoting a boycott.  William A. Jacobson of Legal Insurrection, which has covered the case more closely than any other media outlet, announced the happy news:

I just received the following email from Scott Wargo, Director of Communications at Oberlin College:

Oberlin College initiates payment of awarded damages in Gibson's Bakery case

Oberlin College and Conservatory has initiated payment in full of the $36.59 million judgment in the Gibson's Bakery case and is awaiting payment information from the plaintiffs. This amount represents awarded damages and accumulated interest, and therefore no further payments are required.

On August 30, the Ohio Supreme Court issued its decision not to hear Oberlin's appeal. Oberlin's Board of Trustees has decided not to pursue the matter further.

We are disappointed by the Court's decision. However, this does not diminish our respect for the law and the integrity of our legal system.

This matter has been painful for everyone. We hope that the end of the litigation will begin the healing of our entire community.

We value our relationship with the City of Oberlin, and we look forward to continuing our support of and partnership with local businesses as we work together to help our city thrive.

Oberlin's core mission is to provide our students with a distinctive and outstanding undergraduate education. The size of this verdict is significant. However, our careful financial planning, which includes insurance coverage, means that we can satisfy our legal obligation without impacting our academic and student experience. It is our belief that the way forward is to continue to support and strengthen the quality of education for our students now and into the future.

Notice what is not in the statement: An apology. Oberlin College still appears not to understand or accept what it did wrong. It considers itself the victim.

Oberlin's endowment reportedly is in the neighborhood of a billion dollars, so this sum — the original judgment plus interest — while painful, is not about to bankrupt it.  But my sense as an observer of competition in the higher education market is that Oberlin has suffered a lot of reputational damage from its conduct, both in provoking the lawsuit and in defending itself.

Congratulations to Gibson's and to Legal Insurrection.  It is tragic that two senior members of the Gibson family did not live to see the final resolution of the case, but that is on Oberlin, which fought the verdict as far as the courts would allow and still has not come to terms with the problems in its own behavior.

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