The controversy in the Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College case began in 2016 after Allyn Gibson, who was working at his family’s store, confronted and chased a Black Oberlin College student. Gibson believed that the student had presented a fake identification to purchase alcohol and was also trying to shoplift. Watch the following video which presents a summary of the case. Also read the statement of the facts presented at the trial that can be found in paragraphs 6 through 16 of the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision (pp. 3-7).
In 2019, a jury found Oberlin College liable for libel, a form of defamation, and other torts. In April 2022, the Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed the judgement that Oberlin College is liable for $31 million for damaging the reputation of Gibson’s Bakery.
- What is the definition of defamation? What are the legal elements that a plaintiff must prove to show that the defendant has defamed the plaintiff?
- In this case, Gibson’s Bakery did not sue the student protesters. Instead, they focused on the support that the Oberlin College supplied to the students. Explain whether you think the facts described in the lawsuit proved the legal elements of defamation.
- Assuming that the business’ reputation was damaged, explain whether you think the award of $31 million was fair.