According to recent reports, Oberlin College is suing four insurers for refusing to reimburse the school amid a significant loss in a legal battle with a local bakery. Oberlin College was ordered to pay $36 million in damages to Gibson’s Bakery, a business that was falsely accused of racism.
Oberlin previously indicated that the nearly $40 million in damages it was ordered to pay was an insignificant sum to the college. “The size of this verdict is significant. However, our careful financial planning, which includes insurance coverage, means that we can satisfy our legal obligation without impacting our academic and student experience,” the school said in a previous press release.
However, Oberlin’s insurers have denied the school reimbursement after it already paid millions to the Gibson family. The college filed a lawsuit against the insurers in April, but it was only recently reported on. The insurers listed in the lawsuit are Lexington Insurance Company, United Educators Insurance, Mount Hawley Insurance Company, and StarStone Specialty Insurance Company.
According to Oberlin, the insurance companies are refusing to meet the agreements listed in their policies. The school alleges the insurers have failed “to honor promises they made in their respective policies to protect the interests of Oberlin College.” The college held a variety of different liability coverages that amount to tens of millions of dollars.
The lawsuit against the companies states, “These policies were intended to provide seamless coverage for lawsuits like the Gibson litigation. Unfortunately, the defendant insurers have failed to pay a penny toward the $36,590,572.48 sum that Oberlin paid the Gibson plaintiffs. They also have failed to pay for the full cost of Oberlin’s appeals, which were pursued at the behest of the insurers in order to reduce their collective exposure.”
After losing in trial and exhausting all of its appeals, Oberlin College was forced to pay the Gibson family over $36.5 million in damages last year. The controversy originates from a 2016 incident at the bakery where non-white students attempted to steal alcohol and were naturally pursued by a Gibson family member, only to be attacked by the students.
The three students were arrested by police and faced varying charges to which they all pleaded guilty. Eventually, each student involved read statements in court affirming that the Gibsons had the right to pursue them for attempted theft and that the action to do was not rooted in racism.
However, after the students were arrested, protests erupted outside the baker for days. Students of Oberlin organized to hand out flyers that claimed Gibson’s Bakery had a long history of racism. Allegedly, even the former vice president and dean of students, Meredith Raimondo, was involved in supporting the protests and handing out flyers.
The Gibsons sued after Oberlin refused to acknowledge the bakery’s request for the college to apologize for the incidents related to the protest and state that the family was not racist. Ultimately, no evidence was ever presented during the trial that suggested the Gibsons or their business was racist or had a history of racism.
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