Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College trial motions – What’s a reputation worth, and how do you prove it?
Court reserves decision as to whether Gibson’s Bakery can call an expert on brand damage repair costs.
With the first week of Legal Insurrection’s coverage of the famed “liberal arts humanitarianism and defamation lawsuit” trial ending, word now is that jury selection has been pushed back even further.
Given that Lorain County court Judge John R. Miraldi also handles drug courts on Monday and Tuesday mornings, and given that Judge Miraldi has a few more evidentiary rulings to ponder, jury selection will now begin on Wednesday morning, May 8.
Oberlin College and the Gibson’s Bros. don’t seem any closer to settlement than at any other time in the past 18 months since the case was filed. But it is quite apparent after today’s hearing, that the price of what it entails to remediate one’s reputation as an accused “racial profiling” business in a college “town and gown” economy is pretty pricey. Even if you are selling cookies and 12-packs of beer and renting a few apartments out.
According to a media expert that the Gibson Bros. bakery and convenience store wants to testify at the trial, it will cost them about $13.5 million of public relations and crisis communications to repair their reputation they claim Oberlin College damaged.
For background, this is what is being debated. On Nov. 9, 2016, a day after the presidential elections, an Oberlin College student was arrested for shoplifting at Gibson’s and scuffling with an employee outside. Two other students joined the scuffle. A protest by students ensued after that, with the protesters chanting Gibson’s is “racist” for going after the shoplifter.
Gibson’s is claiming the school libeled and defamed their reputation and money earning in the community. We covered a lot of this in more detail in a case preview on April 29, Previewing Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College trial: ‘Social Justice’ free speech or defamation?
Today, the Oberlin College lawyers filed a motion to prevent media/advertising expert, Dick Maggiore, to testify at the trial. Maggiore is president and CEO of Innis Maggiore, a Canton OH based ad agency/crisis management firm that has big clients: Goodyear Tire and Rubber, Purell Hand Sanitizing, some Ohio hospitals in Northeast Ohio, and Republic Steel.
The reason the college’s attorneys don’t want Maggiore’s 14-page report to be admitted is that they don’t think he bases his estimates of “damaged brand” repair on enough methodology. Maggiore answered this claim that his report was too much guesswork and not enough expertise by giving out his background: 40 years as head of his award-winning ad agency, regular gigs as college professor at University of Akron and Walsh University, and occasional lectures at Kent State University.
The judge seems to be leaning toward allowing the report to be admitted and Maggiore to testify, and allow Oberlin College to knock down credibility with cross-examination. But Judge Miraldi will not rule on this until next week.
Maggiore’s report says it will take six months of to “defend” the Gibson’s name, two years to “repair,” and another four years of “recovery.” The Oberlin College attorney expressed skepticism that it would take more than six years and $13.5 million of “brand mending” to fix a business that had had about $1 million of annual sales prior to the November 2106 protest.
Maggiore didn’t mince words on this subject in his recent op-ed in the Canton Repository: “Brand categories great for selling, lousy for unifying our world.”
The principle of brand product categories can help us understand identity group politics and how they divide us.
We suspect our brain’s built-in processing efficiency contributes to identity politics. It’s just so much easier to categorize groups of people by religion, ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexuality, wealth and political ideologies.
Without even being aware of it, we might be wired physically and psychologically to avoid all the extra “thinking” when we can just put people on category ladders in our minds and make assumptions about their beliefs and behaviors by their group membership.
Sexuality groups include gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, asexual, pansexual and others. Just like with product brand categories, identity group categories subdivide. Facebook has more than 60 gender designations.
We also have a long list of political ideologies, from the far alt-left to the far alt-right and scores in between, pitting us against each other in perpetuating the us-versus-them narrative.
The us-versus-them narrative obviously includes the old adage, “you break it, you buy it.” But how, these day, is tough to figure out.
Conversations at Oberlin College over the past few days by this reporter show that many students think Gibson’s Bakery on the town square is a racist business and they don’t shop there because of that.
But when asked what racism they are talking about, none of the current students could name anything besides vague references to the protests by students in 2016. Most didn’t even know what the protests was about specifically, aside from the fact that the cookie maker and beer seller was guilty of “racial profiling” students.
Or maybe it will be more along the lines of, “you broke it, you pay to fix it.” This trial is expected to last until the end of May.
Daniel McGraw is a freelance writer and author in Lakewood, Ohio. Follow him on Twitter @danmcgraw1
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