Less than 24 hours after a $44 million settlement against the college in favor of Gibson’s Bakery, Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar assured alumni in an email that the punitive damage award will change.
In the letter sent to alumni that was obtained by the Chronicle-Telegram, Ambar writes: “This is not the final outcome. This is, in fact, just one step along the way of what may turn out to be a lengthy and complex legal process... It will not distract, deter or materially harm our education mission, for today’s students or for generations to come.”
Eight jurors in the civil lawsuit deliberated on punitive damages for less than three hours Thursday afternoon and came back with their verdicts shortly before 3 p.m. Their total damage award was more than $44 million, plus an as-yet-undetermined amount of attorney fees payable to the Gibsons’ legal team.
That final award will be lowered over time because of Ohio laws that set a cap on punitive damages at no more than two times the total compensatory damages. The Gibsons were awarded slightly more than $11 million in compensatory damages by the same jury last week, meaning the cap on total damages — both compensatory and punitive — is about $33.5 million.
Ambar expressed disappointment in the public discussion of the case but pledges that the college. “will learn from this lawsuit as we build a stronger relationship with our neighbors.
Read the letter.
Jurors found that the college libeled the bakery during and after student protests in November 2016. The lawsuit has put the town of Oberlin, Oberlin College and Gibson’s Bakery in the national spotlight.
Following the punitive award, Gibson’s attorney Lee Plakas said “Reckless words are as harmless as recklessly aimed bullets.”
Oberlin College attorney Ron Holman said he was unable to comment.
In a voicemail Friday, Oberlin spokesman Scott Wargo said the college had nothing more to add at this point.
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