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. No matter what thew outcome, In the future insurance companies are either going to refuse insurance or demand extremely high rates from Woke Universities.

    No one in their right mind would insure these fools.

    Thbey refuse to take responsibility fo ranything.

  2. Oberlin’s endowment is over a billion dollars so this is just shoe money for them.
    But don’t be surprised if Biden tries to cancel their debt and get the taxpayers to pay for it like he’s doing with student loans!

    1. Not really. Almost all of that Endowment is target to specific expenditures. When a donor grants money to this college, they usually specify how it is to be expended. Most go directly to students.

  3. OT: America First Legal sues Target for allegedly misleading shareholders
    At issue is a recent multi-billion loss stemming from a consumer boycott in response to the company’s featuring Pride merchandise marketed toward children in June.

    America First Legal announced on Tuesday that it had filed a lawsuit against retail giant Target for allegedly misleading shareholders with false statements about its political/social risk monitoring.

    “Target’s management has misled investors, assuring them that the corporation oversees social and political issues and risks to protect shareholders,” AFL stated. “Behind closed doors, Target works for its extremist hard-left ‘stakeholders’ at the expense of its customers and shareholders.”


  4. 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.”

    IOW she blasted the business for supposedly being racist. When someone pointed out the store was not racist her reaction was, true but that doesn’t change anything. So people are paying to attend an institution that is openly stupid and presumably making their students just as stupid.

  5. Burn your house down don’t expect your insurer to pay for it. Oberlin did the equivalent. The school is not only filled with entitled radicals it appears that many of them are stupid. I doubt they will learn anything from the experience of paying their own debts. Who sends their children to this pricey asylum?

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