Oberlin Ordered to Pay An Additional $6.5 Million in Attorneys Fees

We have previously discussed the unprecedented damages awarded against Oberlin College for defaming a small grocery store after the arrest of three African American students for shoplifting. Recently President Carmen Twillie Ambar   refused to apologize to the grocery store and the school assured alumni that it would have no difficulty in paying the reduced $25 million. In other words, the President and school simply shrugged and offered neither apologies or reform, including retaining one of the key officials who facilitated the protests and targeting of the store. Now the direct costs are $31.5 million with an award of attorneys fees and that is not counting the huge costs spent on the defense. The records show that Oberlin’s counsel billed twice as many hours as the victorious team for Gibson’s Bakery.

I will not repeat the facts of the controversy, which were detailed in a prior column.  Suffice it to say that a jury and a court found that Oberlin defamed a small, family-owned grocery after an African American student named Jonathan Aladin was caught trying to steal a bottle of wine from Gibson’s Bakery, which was established in 1885.   Aladin and two other students, Cecilia Whettstone and Endia Lawrence, were arrested and later pleaded guilty to shoplifting and related crimes. Dean of students Meredith Raimondo reportedly joined the massive protests and fueled protests calling the grocery racist.  She led efforts to bar any business with the grocery and another contractor was told that it could not do business with the grocery and still maintain a contract with Oberlin.

The version that students and alumni were given was starkly at odds with the record, including the fact that all of the students admitted that the attempted shoplifting and the police issued a record showing no pattern of racial profiling at the grocery. Instead, this is what alumni were told about the incident by the Oberlin Review:

“a Black student attempted to make a purchase at Gibson’s Bakery and was accused of shoplifting. The student ran outside the store and Allyn Gibson, the son of owner David Gibson, followed him. Gibson allegedly tackled the student, and the two got into a physical altercation. Two of the student’s friends saw the altercation and began hitting and pulling on Gibson to get him away from the student.

A customer in the shop saw the altercation and called the Oberlin Police Department out of concern for the students’ safety. When the police arrived, they immediately arrested the three Black students and refused to take statements from some students and witnesses who were present.”

With $25 million in damages as well as huge litigation costs, Oberlin still did not fire Raimondo or, more importantly, apologize to the grocery (and its donors for wasting millions).

The attorneys fees award was twice what Oberlin argued was reasonable.

The Court indicated that the real costs for Oberlin were much higher and that the case warranted high fees for the plaintiffs:

Defendants’ counsel prepared for and tried the same case. … After the complaint was filed, nearly every phase of the case was vigorously contested, including the trial which encompassed twenty-four days over the course of nearly six weeks. Plaintiffs’ counsel’s billing invoices are reflective of, and consistent with, a case of this magnitude.

Gibson’s legal team asked for $6,565,531.

As I have previously written, I am not a fan of these fee and cost award laws, an American version of the “English Rule.”

However, the real costs of this litigation for Oberlin likely exceeded $40 million. Yet, alumni are being told that the school has nothing to apologize or reforms to be made. Of course, the college is still asking for donations as a way of “ensuring that Oberlin College is pursuing a path of sustainability – educationally, financially, and environmentally.” Perhaps the financial sustainability could start with addressing the loss of tens of millions because the administration lacks the courage to confront its own student body and faculty on irresponsible and defamatory actions.

Here is the order: Oberlin Fees Ruling

17 thoughts on “Oberlin Ordered to Pay An Additional $6.5 Million in Attorneys Fees”

  1. Oberlin said they will appeal and are trying to do so without posting a bond, saying it’s hard for them to get the money and their enrollment is declining.
    Well heck (1) they have an art collection that could be posted as collateral or sold, and (2) if they’re shrinking they should be selling off buildings and land anyway.

  2. The price of politically-correct privilege just went up. Oberlin wasted the court’s time challenging facts that weren’t remotely in question in a long trial. Making them pay for that was just.

    Everything about this trial was Oberlin being hoist on its own petard. There wouldn’t even have been a trial had (a) the Oberlin student not tried to buy wine on a fake ID, then stolen the wine, then assaulted the store clerk, then (b) Oberlin faculty and students not falsely accused the victims of that theft and assault of racism, and (c) Oberlin College not used their influence to deprive their victims of their usual business income.

    Oberlin College went to great lengths to wind up in court as defendants, by engaging in a shameful display of entitled thuggery. They made a sordid joke of their mission statement by trying to discourage a well-deserved lawsuit with low-life intimidation tactics.

    I just wish Gibson’s Bakery’s lawyers had padded their bill in the way Oberlin’s lawyers seen to have.

  3. (music)
    Ober Lin! Oberlin!
    Greatest city in Alabam!
    Clear across this great big land…
    There ain’t no place like Oberlin!

    Had a wife… had a family…
    Earned my living with my hands.
    I was a roller in a steel milll…
    Just inside of Oberlin.

      1. They had insurance, but since the actions of Oberlin were deliberate, then they may not be covered and Oberlin will be on the hook for the whole amount. Look for a court fight between Oberlin and their insurance carrier (who filed motions during the trial indicating their reservation of rights).

  4. “…an African American student named Jonathan Aladin was caught trying to steal a bottle of wine from…Aladin and two other students, Cecilia Whettstone and Endia Lawrence, were arrested and later pleaded guilty to shoplifting and related crimes…”

    “…an African American student named Jonathan Din’du Nuthin’ was caught trying to steal a bottle of wine from…Din’du and two other students, Cecilia Din’du Nuthin’ and Endia Din’du Nuthin’, were arrested and later pleaded guilty to shoplifting and related crimes…”


    Those three Din’du’s couldn’t find Africa on a map with both hands and a magnifying glass.

  5. The amount of the award should be 3 times what was awarded. Perhaps that will get the Regents attention and focus on what a dumbS**T they hired for running the school. If they take no action, I would wish that they go bankrupt and out of business. After all, what lesson are their students being taught? STUPID, that is what.

  6. When you’re convinced you’re right, there are no mistakes to learn from.

  7. This case embodies the elements of the feral Left and much of the Democrat party. False and specious smears and accusations; racially toxic rhetoric intended to demean and ruin innocent bystanders; approval of violence and lawlessness; spiteful liberal entitlement to impune disdain on those who are innocent; disgusting wealth and privilege by institutions/individuals who claim otherwise; academic excess by liberals; media malpractice in support of false leftist narratives. These are every day occurences in our new “uncivil” society promulgated by liberals and progressives. Finally the good guys (the bakery) won.

    1. When these groups skip classes then ask for minimum B in order to chant “Racist Racist Racist” They are NOT being negative to the opposition but voicing their own rally cry. i suspect another suit as the miffed who were dissed by the lawyers on the list who just missed a millin each while those trying to glorify their own stance by chanting “Racist Racist Racist” wil be filing soon for being ignored.

      Oberlin. Not a place t send your children if they have lerned and yearned to act like adults then pouted and cried because no one tried to understand their plight. Why being racist is our right. And by the way how they get to wear red ties. Thats our colors.

  8. Punitive damages are around to teach tortfeasors a lesson and deter future tortious conduct. Doesn’t seem to have happened here so more remedial instruction is required for our denizens of academia. To paraphrase Churchill “You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war (later).” And to quote Mr. T when that happens, ” I pity the fool,” ’cause you were warned.

    1. “Punitive damages are around to teach tortfeasors a lesson and deter future tortious conduct.”

      Then it was a mistake for the judge to have reduced them.

  9. Again, trustee nonfeasance. Responsible trustees would have issued three pink slips, one to Ambar, one to Meredith Raimondo, and one to the GC, Donica Varner. That they did not is an indication that the trustees are unfit to hold the positions they do. There are provisions in New York law for authorities to eject trustees whose behavior manifests gross negligence, and it’s been done in New York to college trustees whose behavior has been considerably less egregious than Oberlin’s board. Where are the courts? Where is the secretary of state? Where is the state board of regents?

    1. “Where are the courts? Where is the secretary of state? Where is the state board of regents?”

      I’m pretty sure Oberlin is a private institution. So the state doesn’t have any oversight. They don’t have shareholders, so it’s difficult to understand to whom the board would have a fiduciary duty other than possibly students and staff, who are the people most directly culpable in this matter anyway. Possibly, there’s a duty to alumni, but a large proportion of them are probably as woke as the current students. As to your question “where are the courts?” I don’t know how much you’ve read up on this disaster, but the courts are ones plastering the college with these big judgments.

      So, if the board is OK with all of this, then that’s pretty much it. But if I were on that board, I’d definitely be voting to fire just about everybody.

      I’d be interested in learning from someone more educated on matters of private college governance whether there are any stakeholders would have standing to hold the college accountable. But it seems to me that if you’re a stakeholder of any kind, more lawsuits are probably not what you want to see right now.

      1. So the state doesn’t have any oversight

        Philanthropies are incorporated under state law and educational philanthropies in certain states can suffer the deposition of their board by court order. The entire board of Adelphi University was removed in 1997.

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