It took years, but it looks like the case of a small-town grocery store against Oberlin College is over.
The incident prompted a series of protests and boycotts alleging the store was racially profiling the students involved in the incident because they were Black.
Three students ended up pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges related to the theft and subsequent scuffle.
Gibson’s sued the college a year later, arguing it fanned the baseless racial flames and some of its staff even encouraged the protests. The college also ordered its suppliers to not purchase goods from the store that traces its history back to 1885.
Two Canton-area law firms
Stark County-based firms Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty and Plakas Mannos filed a lawsuit a year later on behalf of the Gibson family, which was awarded a jaw-dropping $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages from a Lorain County jury.
The case has been kicked around on appeals including the 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron ever since.
But this week the Ohio Supreme Court said it would not hear a final appeal of $25 million judgment that had been reduced from $44 million during the appeals.
The original amount awarded by the jury was the largest defamation verdict in Ohio history.
“This has been a historic case that has attracted national and international attention,” lead counsel Lee Plakas of Plakas Mannos said in a statement.
“The issues which resonated with the jury and the public during the six-week trial are themes that are important to our society: truth matters – juries have the power to defend families against billion dollar bullies – no group or individuals are entitled to special treatment under the law – every institution needs to have an adult in the room – appeasing student misconduct is a disservice to both the students and our country.”
Plakas also stated: ” I am proud that our legal team, comprised of attorneys from Plakas Mannos and Krugliak Wilkens, was able to overcome the onslaught from the billion dollar Goliath, which used its resources to direct at least four-five law firms and over 20 attorneys to try to excuse its conduct.”
Plakas noted the legal case has been featured in stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and numerous other media, including “CBS News Sunday Morning.”
Oberlin College issued a statement expressing disappointment in the final result.
“The issues raised by this case have been challenging, not only for the parties involved, but for the entire Oberlin community,” the college’s statement said.
The Krugliak firm said it is disappointing that the case took so long and some of the Gibson family members did not live to see its resolution.
“It was a monumental victory for small businesses,” the firm said in a statement. “It also serves as a reminder that the truth still matters and that even those with much power and influence must be held accountable for their conduct.”
A Repository staff writer contributed to this report.
Craig Webb can be reached at [email protected].
This article originally appeared on The Repository: Canton firm prevails in $25 million suit against Oberlin College
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