Oberlin Sues Insurance Companies for the Costs of its Abusive Litigation Against Family-Owned Grocery

We previously followed the disgraceful record of Oberlin College, which relentlessly attacked a small family grocery for false claims of racism, even after the initial accounts were proven to be false. The college then prolonged the litigation, virtually forcing the family into insolvency. Oberlin President Carmen Twillie Ambar and the Board needlessly spent millions in litigation costs above the damages rather than admit that the college was wrong in the targeting of this grocery. In an extraordinary show of hubris, the college is now suing four insurance companies, which balked at paying the costs. It appears that, whatever the value of being an Oberlin graduate may be today, the value of being an Oberlin lawyer is virtually limitless.

Gibson’s, a small family store and bakery, has been part of this small community since 1885. Despite that long association, the store became the focus of a campaign of destruction led by college officials after three African American students were arrested for shoplifting in 2016.

The arrests sparked an immediate campaign calling the store racist. Undeterred, the police found clear evidence of shoplifting and noted that, over a period of five years, 40 adults were arrested for shoplifting at Gibson’s Bakery, but only six were African American.

Nevertheless, the local prosecutors appeared to cave to the pressure and cut a plea deal to reduce the charge to attempted theft. But a local judge refused to accept the deal and said that the plea was the result of a punishing series of protests and a “permanent economic sanction.” Ultimately, all three students pleaded guilty.

Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo reportedly joined the massive protests and even handed out a flier denouncing the bakery as a racist business. When some pointed out that the students admitted they were guilty, special assistant to the president for community and government relations Tita Reed (who also reportedly participated in the protests) wrote that it did not change a “damn thing.”

The jury in June 2019 awarded the Gibsons $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages. A judge later reduced the award to $25 million. But the college continued to drag out the appeal in what seemed like a revenge litigation against a store that refused to give up simply because it was innocent. That pushed the costs back up to more than $36 million for just the damages and interest to the grocery. That does not include the millions for the college’s own legal costs, which will now increase further with the lawsuit against the insurance companies.

As reported in the Chronicle Telegram, Oberlin is suing Lexington Insurance Company of New York; United Educators Insurance of Bethesda, Maryland; Mount Hawley Insurance Company of Peoria, Illinois; and StarStone Specialty Insurance Company of Cincinnati. It reported that it received a million dollars but incurred millions more in litigation costs alone. However, Cornell Professor William Jacobson has speculated that the companies will continue to decline on the basis of the college engaging in intentional torts.

There is, of course, an element of poetic justice in all of this for a College President and board that cared less about the plight of this family or the costs to its alumni and students.

It may also serve an important deterrent value for the college to have to bear the costs of its conduct. The college apparently treated its $75 million in coverage as a license to continue endless appeals while refusing to accept responsibility for its own conduct. This sense of entitlement was apparently shared by the students. When the college brought in a risk management expert, students were alarmed and objected.

Ambar and her board may have assumed that they could just treat this as someone else’s costs — the insurance companies, the alumni, the students. A denial of coverage could force the school to internalize the costs of this colossal failure of leadership. Since the leadership was unmoved by appeals to decency and fairness for years, a financial deterrent may be just what the college needs to change its conduct.


41 thoughts on “Oberlin Sues Insurance Companies for the Costs of its Abusive Litigation Against Family-Owned Grocery”

  1. Oberlin is a case study for Hanlon’s Razor

    “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

    The degree of both malice and stupidity is so extreme, it might be impossible to ascertain which one is predominant and therefore Hanlon’s Razor might be unanswerable or at least ambiguous. Another conclusion might be that Hanlon’s Razor collapses when the subject is wantonly and deliberately stupid and malicious. Such militancy demands that a different razor be applied:

    “Never attribute to Oberlin anything other than malice and stupidity.”

    1. Darren – I remember learning in law school that in civil litigation, there is a general rule that the parties each act to maximize their own wealth by increasing their gains or diminishing their losses. The one exception is in divorce litigation, where they are often acting out of spite to harm their opponent even if they get poorer in the process.

      It seems Oberlin has carved out a new example of when a party is not trying to maximize wealth: when the party is woke and becomes deranged in its pursuit of a false charge of racism.

      1. Oldman, you made a great and interesting point.

        When going through massive Divorce Agreements I used to joke that the parties were spending thousands and thousands of dollars over a 1975 Gremlin auto. I also remember being told that the most dangerous area for lawyers was divorce/family law because husbands would kill attorneys more often than criminals and murderers.

  2. It’s hard to imagine that any of their acts are covered by insurance. The people at Oberlin really seem to be living in a fantasy world.

      1. Yes, paid in full last year. Does anyone think that a local jury will have any more sympathy for the school in the new lawsuit than they did in the first one?

  3. If I were an employer, I would make it clear that anyone who has attended Oberlin College since 2016 need not apply. I simply cannot imagine why any intelligent, self-respecting individual would spend tens of thousands of dollars for a degree from a school that has conducted itself so abysmally. Anyone with judgement so poor as to willingly attend Oberlin College where the leadership is obviously unscrupulous has demonstrated that they are someone that I wouldn’t want to employ.

    1. Tehr-Ree, I agree with your sentiment but I would advise not to announce the policy, just keep that information inhouse.

  4. I would not care to go toe to toe with insurance companies. They usually have extremely capable in house counsel and the resources to go outside for additional help and long experience in defending themselves. especially in a case of hurt feelings and embarrassing stupid behavior by their covered clients. Natural disasters and product Liability and personal injury are one thing. A college administration hell bent on running onto it’s own sword should be a piece of cake. The “Question “ should be how long are the Board and administration going to accept sword thrusts to their vitals before their university bleeds out and dies.

  5. Responsibility, accountability, logic and common sense.
    All attributes those who are or were in charge at Oberlin do not possess.

  6. THey are just like most Leftists. Unwilling to take on the cost of their actions. Oberlin faculty, staff, and the University in its entirety, behaved in an unethical and amoral way in their attempt to gain their Leftist, BLM, DIE, TDS badge. Oberlin tried to ruin a business that operated as a member of the community who had done everything right. And since the Left so often acts like an emotional, rage-filled 3 year old, they still can’t acknowledge their perfidy. PAY FOR YOUR MASSIVE MISTAKE AND ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR PERFIDY.

  7. So this is where feminism has gotten the United States. All the major players are females, the new female president a black fetched from New York to replace a white male. Oberlin began as a Christian College. The memorial on Tappan Square commemorates graduates who lost their lives in the Boxer Rebellion. The acronym for diversity, inclusion, and equity is DIE which is precisely what’s happening to the United States under these harridans.

  8. I’ll give these cafe communists credit, they sure stick together through thick & thin. Lenin would be so proud. Thank you, Jonathan, for an excellent article.

  9. If you study the Oberlin Collage Map closely with the Google Map of the same local,
    you can see where Oberlin Collage wants to ‘Develop Down Town’ Oberlin.

    Maybe since the Collage could not take the Stores Real Estate by Emanate Domain
    it choose to Bankrupt the business and take it in a asset sale.
    A lot of Universities have done this as expansion has boomed.

    Look for yourself (Downtown Area) Somebody wanted the Store gone.
    It’s One Horse Town.

    Oberlin College Map

    Google Map

  10. The core of Oberlins position is pushing the systemic racism lie. White people are racist. End of sentence. Blacks then are always innocent when in conflict with whites. (or blacks that act white,its complicated.)

    I heard a Doctor speaking about mandatory woke training included in their required continuing Ed training. . It addresses the lie White Dr’s do not treat Blacks health problems with the same level of focus and intellect they provide to Whites. Her take away was, After 50 years of training and practice, she never witnessed or heard about any such differential care. Difference of care comes down to poverty and ignorance, and equally applies regardless of skin color.

    In short, Oberlin is very racist. Judging individuals, first, by the color of their skin.

  11. I honestly can’t say that I blame Oberlin, from a purely practical (not moral) perspective. As we are seeing with the endless, baseless, political persecution of Donald Trump, it doesn’t matter so much whether you’re right or wrong, but who appointed the judge presiding over your case. Oberlin is betting on the current political climate in which anything or anyone as openly anti-Trump as they are will eventually be favored in the judicial process. I think Oberlin will win. No, it’s not right. No, it’s not what our justice system is supposed to be. It’s what our justice system is.

  12. What better example of the moral and spiritual rot at the core of post-secondary education today. It has been completely captured by the Left, and the Left ruins everything it touches. Everything.

  13. Interesting scenario: what happens when the devil himself (Oberlin) goes up against an insurance company?

  14. Oberlin and its Board deserves everything it gets for the treatment they gave to the business and family. Woke Board Woke College. The best way to handle the Woke and the Left is hit them hard in the pocket book. Once you do that they start screaming. They had many chances to resolve this situation without such costs but they chose to go the WOKE way. Good Luck fighting the insurance companies. I know one of them well and they will not cave to lawsuits.

  15. You know who else files endless appeals in all sorts of litigation most of them frivolous, rather than admitting wrongdoing, and looking to others to cover legal costs?

    Donald Trump. Just yesterday another of his many defamation suits was dismissed, this one against Jean Carroll. The judge ruled that when she said Trump raped her, she was truthful as the previous jury found. But Turley never objects to all this frivolous litigation filed by Trump; it is only a problem if Turley’s perceived enemies do it.

    1. Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump Trump.

      How predictable is Trump Derangement Syndrome deflection? It will happen as surely as the sun rises in the east.

    2. The “previous jury” found Trump liable for sexual abuse, not rape. That’s a FACT, no matter what improper remarks a biased judge uttered. And the judgment is being appealed. But don’t let facts intrude on your lying.

    3. poppa: Let’s talk about the endless fake lawsuits the Democrats keep filing against Trump. That’s the real story.

  16. “… a financial deterrent may be just what the college needs to change its conduct.”

    Oberlin might cosmetically change its conduct, but the odds that the college will change its thinking are as close to zero as the chance of democrats or Professor Turley (pardon the redundancy) admitting that Trump was right about the stolen election of 2020.

  17. I read every story about Oberlin College with pure joy for all the suffering that they are experiencing. Of course the Raimondos and Ambars just glide along to new positions without having to reach into their pockets to pay the poor bakery for trying to destroy them. They will just move along to a different college with an equally radical outlook, pass their opinions on to a new group of gullible and impressionable young people.

    What amazes me is that alumna still donate to schools like Oberlin!

  18. Professor, you should give far more “credit” to Oberlin’s VP/General Counsel for this legal disaster. Donica Thomas Varner was Oberlin’s Vice President and General Counsel during the litigation you describe. One is entitled to assume that she was the “brains” behind this “anti-racist” attack on Gibson’s.
    Now, she has the same positions at Cornell University. She was hired knowing what she did at Oberlin. What does that tell you about Cornell?

    1. I call them “serial losers.”. They eff up a business or, in this case, a college….but move on to yet another gig which will likely get the same treatment. Who hires these people and why?

      1. That sounds just like someone I know, He started our in Congress, then went on to be VP of our Country and now he is the President of our Country. And who hired him? VOTERS

        1. “81 million voters. More voters than those who voted for Barak Obama. While Joe was campaigning from his basement. Against an incumbent who had reduced unemployment, made us energy independent, and achieved some of the greatest peace achievements ever seen in the Middle East.”

          If you truly believe all of that then yes… I suppose voters did hire Joe. But I’m not buying it. Enjoy your Kool-Aid.

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