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Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College – On eve of punitive damages hearing, college plays victim

Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College – On eve of punitive damages hearing, college plays victim

Oberlin College’s blast email to college community criticizing jurors played on theme that it was just protecting free speech, and the mainstream media seems to like that narrative even though it was rejected by the jury already.

As you know, last Friday the jury rendered a verdict of $11.2 million against Oberlin College and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo for compensatory damages. Allyn W. Gibson was awarded $3 million, David Gibson $5.8 million, Gibson Bros. $2,274,500.

Legal Insurrection readers heard it here first. Our Verdict post has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media.

This Timcast video going over our post has been viewed over 300,000 times (h/t to commenters and emailers on this).

Tomorrow afternoon is the start of the hearing on punitive damages, which could add up to double damages, meaning $22.4 million on top of the $11.2 million compensatory.

The compensatory damages news initially swept through conservative media and social media, but today broke through into the mainstream media at The Washington Post, The New York Times, and elsewhere.

Something interesting, but not all that surprising, has happened. The ill-advised blast email from the college’s General Counsel criticizing the jurors portrayed the college as the victim, as if the college merely was protecting the free speech of students:

As we have stated, colleges cannot be held liable for the independent actions of their students. Institutions of higher education are obligated to protect freedom of speech on their campuses and respect their students’ decision to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. Oberlin College acted in accordance with these obligations.

That was part of the defense previously, so it’s not entirely new, but the blast email made the point in a dramatic way. It’s a theme which is ridiculous on the facts, but plays into a narrative the mainstream media might adopt. There may have been a method to the madness.  The NY Times picked up on the claim that this is a free speech case:

The verdict raised questions about the responsibility of institutions of higher education to police students’ speech and behavior, as well as broader First Amendment issues.

Floyd Abrams, a First Amendment lawyer, said the outcome represented “a double-barreled threat to free speech on campus.”

“The notion that uninhibited student speech can lead to vast financial liability for the universities at which it occurs threatens both the viability of educational institutions and ultimately the free speech of their students,” he said on Sunday.

That is a completely mistaken take on the case. As pointed out when the General Counsel issued her email, Oberlin College was not held liable for what the students did:

Oberlin College and Raimondo were not “held liable for the independent actions of their students.” Rather, the defendants were held liable for their own conduct in aiding and abetting the publication of libelous documents, interference with business, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Let me repeat, it was the college’s and Raimondo’s own conduct that was at issue before the jury.

I went over this in my radio interview with Michael Berry, What the media is getting wrong about Gibson’s Bakery libel verdict against Oberlin College:

If all Oberlin College had done is say, hey, students are students they can do what they want, there would not have been a case. But it was the alleged active participation of the college and its senior administrators in spreading the defamation that gave rise to the law suit. That’s a nuance that’s getting lost in some of the media coverage.

The New York Times covered this today and promoted this as an issue of free speech rights on campus. It’s not. This is not the college being held responsible for what students said. It’s the college being held responsible for its own conduct in distributing and what we call in the law, publishing, defamatory statements about the bakery.

The jury found that they acted with malice and that they defamed Gibson’s bakery and the judge ruled as a matter of law that these statements that were made and distributed by the college were not protected opinion, they were not Constitutionally protected opinion because they stated facts about the history of Gibson’s that were factual statements.”

I made the point again in a video interview with Campus Reform. (Yes, that’s my wife walking in the background, she thought I was on a radio call.)

Let’s see how heavily the defense that the college is the victim plays out in the punitive damages hearing.

What will happen in the punitive damages phase and what is the timing? We’re not sure what new evidence will be presented, how many witnesses will be called, or how long it will take. Court starts at 1:30 tomorrow because the judge has other cases in the morning.

My sense, and it’s only a sense, it that this is not going to be over in half a day. So I’m guessing we’re talking about Wednesday or even Thursday before we know whether there will be punitive damages, and if so, how much.

Of course, Dan McGraw will be in the courtroom and once again, you’ll be the first people outside the courthouse to find out.


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LukeHandCool | June 10, 2019 at 7:39 pm

Mrs. Jacobson!!!!!!

She’s an instant star!!

“That is a completely mistaken take on the case. ”
Not a mistake by the corrupt media, it’s the same script as FBI to news media to FBI to FISA court. Oberlin legal to news media to Oberlin PR dept. “see we are victims, the NYT, WaPo says so!!” BS

    Tom Servo in reply to SHV. | June 10, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    The good part is that what the media believes don’t mean diddly squat right now. All that matters is what that Jury believes.

    InEssence in reply to SHV. | June 10, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    As Glenn Reynolds is fond of saying, “Think of them, such as NYT and WAPO, as Democrat operatives”. Then it all makes sense.

    RITaxpayer in reply to SHV. | June 11, 2019 at 5:42 am

    Reminds me of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case. I still hear people say that case was instrumental to their being against the Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ defense.

    When I mention it was ‘Self Defense’ and not stand your ground, they quote the MSM and insist I’ve got it all wrong.

    Bad on them. They should come here to LI and hear the truth instead of putting all their faith in what the lying, fake news, enemy of the people, MSM have to interpret.

      JusticeDelivered in reply to RITaxpayer. | June 11, 2019 at 8:43 am

      They are willfully ignorant. I get a kick out of telling them that Thugvon and others received lawful justice.

The NYT also refers to Allyn Gibson placing a ‘choke hold’ on the shoplifter, which seems an impossibility to me given the fact that he was being pummeled by the thief and his two friends.

Grounds for libel? 😉

    Brave Sir Robbin in reply to mian9. | June 10, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    Well, they certainly have the financial resources now to pursue that tort.

    MajorWood in reply to mian9. | June 11, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    The NYT stated that the report contained a statement that Allyn had placed a choke-hold on the suspect. An SJW strategy is to make up a bunch of stuff, and then say that it not being reported or acted upon is evidence of a coverup. I guess the Oberlin lawyers were just incompetent for not getting all of this other “evidence” admitted. I wonder how much further south the case could have gone if they had put some of the students on the stand.

    FWIW, those students who participated in the mob action should be damn grateful that the college was there to take the hit. Just because they weren’t singled out by the Gibsons legal team is not to say that their collective lives couldn’t have been ruined for their actions.

Oberlin is broadcasting to any Federal judge willing to listen and intervene: WE ARE THE REAL VICTIMS HERE!!

Ten bucks (donated to LI Foundation if I lose) says a Federal judge will hear the call and throw out the jury’s judgement on the grounds of “fairness”.

    legalbeagle in reply to Recovering Lutheran. | June 10, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    In today’s environment I can’t say you are wrong. But the statutory appeals pathway is through the Ohio Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the United States gets involved only after the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled and only if there is a Federal Issue that SCOTUS; at its sole discretion; deems worthy of review.

      Tom Servo in reply to legalbeagle. | June 10, 2019 at 9:46 pm

      Oberlin would have to show that their Constitutional Rights were being violated. And even though the MSM may be parroting that line, this case, as our host keeps pointing out, wasn’t about Speech at all. It was about the actions of the Oberlin administrators.

      Typical play by the left – they’re trying to whip up a fake appeal by howling about a case that only happened in their fantasies, not in reality.

      I have more faith in the federal judiciary than many here, in spite of the outliers like the obviously corrupt Hawaiian Judge. The vast majority of them are quite good, and take the law very seriously.

      This ain’t going federal.

      Milwaukee in reply to legalbeagle. | June 10, 2019 at 10:47 pm

      Hey, LegalBeagle:
      You are probably right: “In today’s environment I can’t say you are wrong.”

      But, so what?
      There might a student in California who can go to a judge from the 9th Circuit and get a national court order to put the squelch on the whole mess, until sorted out later.

      Right or wrong, mostly wrong, leftists can find a judge who will claim jurisdiction and grab for power. Mostly likely what us unwashed, uneducated types call an “0bama Judge”. Chief Justice Roberts will know what I mean, if you don’t.

      Whoops. You will know what a I mean if Chief Justice Roberts doesn’t.

      The problem with the free speech card is that, they committed libel and slander upon the Gibson’s. Worse yet, they knew it to be untrue moving it into the wanton, willful and reckless category. They recklessly disregarded the truth. This is one of those cases where intentional infliction of emotional distress is actually meritorious. Frankly, Oberlin deserves this.
      The worst of it hasn’t dawned on Oberlin yet. They ruined these three kids lives. With the Gibson’s help and a little constructive pressure they likely could have got these kids a minor misdemeanor and some academic probation. Now these kids have a felony robbery charge on their record and a future career as a burger flipper. Frankly this Raimondo character should be fired for gross negligence. I don’t know what sort of advice Oberlin’s legal counsel gave them, but I would have advised them to do exactly the opposite of what they did. This is a malpractice level piece of legal advice. I don’t make that comment lightly.

        They ruined these three kids lives. With the Gibson’s help and a little constructive pressure they likely could have got these kids a minor misdemeanor and some academic probation. Now these kids have a felony robbery charge on their record and a future career as a burger flipper

        No, they don’t. One of them had her record completely expunged, so she’s got no problems at all. The other two pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges only. So no felony record for any of them.

    C. Lashown in reply to Recovering Lutheran. | June 10, 2019 at 9:25 pm

    BINGO! That homely old sack of snot (Meredith Raimondo) is setting the stage for an appeal and to have the jury judgement to be set aside. They’re willing to spend a few hundred thousand to save a few million and either way it’s an insurance policy against Gibson’s ever opening up again. Can Gibson’s afford to go through this trial a second time? AND…what a great example for all the SJW thug Noob’s in how to manipulate the system.

    It’s not possible. There is no federal issue here.

Brave Sir Robbin | June 10, 2019 at 8:06 pm

This has nothing to do with free speech. The correct analogy is more like the malicious incitement of a mob. The school helped to incite and direct a mob (mistakenly called students) to destroy a local small business, and took other actions, such as malicious interference with a business relationship to the same end.

    smalltownoklahoman in reply to Brave Sir Robbin. | June 10, 2019 at 9:04 pm

    Yes, that is a better analogy. Had Oberlin simply stayed out of things this lawsuit never would have happened.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to Brave Sir Robbin. | June 10, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    They also blackmailed area businesses to prevent their thieving students from being held accountable according to law. That is something for which they should be prosecuted.

Deflect and obfuscate.

Professor, we learned in other comments that our intrepid reporter’s name is Daniel, not Dan. 😉

F*k ’em. Unleash the students!

It’s hard to imagine a group that is so self-righteous and full to the snout with their own perceived virtue that you could find so many senior institutional executives committed to thoroughly screwing up their legal position. And the worst of it is that there is almost no probability that in the aftermath of this, there will be a review of the central flaw in their hive-mind leftie thinking. Their arrogance is breath-taking.

– Krumhorn

So the left wants to claim that they must prevent certain speech on campus because it might anger/offend/harm some of their students and that they simultaneously must not interfere with speech on campus that might harm others because it would hamper their students’ education?

“For three sleazeball shoplifters? Why Oberlin, it profit a school nothing to give its soul for the whole world . . . but for three sleazeball shoplifters?!”

The origin: “For Wales? Why Richard, it profit a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . but for Wales!”
-from Robert Bolt’s play, “A Man For All Seasons”

    94Corvette in reply to | June 10, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    And I wonder, where are the three students today? Did they finish their degrees or did they drop out?

      They’re probably in their seventh year of their Masters probram in stealing, still at oberlin, on scholarship.

      What a sh-thole.

      Silvertree in reply to 94Corvette. | June 11, 2019 at 12:39 am

      According to a May ’19 article in the College newspaper, Elijah Aladin is the Student Finance Committee Operations Manager. I have not seen anything about the two young women.

      It sounds funny to have a known thief involved with student finances. But you know, people often do stupid things in their youth and some do learn from them. We should not forget that these kids may have long lives ahead of them and may yet do some very good and fine things!

I see the idiots at the New York Times deliberately got it wrong again. No wonder the president says they’re the enemy of the people

And I would think any First Amendment attorney would recognize this is not about free speech but about thuggish college administrators assisting thuggish college students slandering a local bakery

    They didn’t get anything ‘wrong.’

    The ‘enemy of the people’ quote by Trump is too broad. The NY Times is an enemy of ‘free’ people, but a friend to corrupt fascists.

Seems to me that by failing to respond to that e-mail, Oberlin tacitly signals its agreement with the lie. They are going along with it so as to not upend that national progressive effort to intimidate judge and jury with implied lasting consequences of being forever remembered as racists.

It also won’t help Oberlin this week that the memo impugned the integrity of the judge and jury as well as repeating the false narrative of defending free speech.

I hope once maximum judgment is rendered, the judge issues a statement warning Oberlin that there will be continuing legal liability for Oberlin’s failure to address the alumni association e-mailed letter.

Great strategy, isn’t it? “If the jury were just as smart as we are (and clearly they aren’t), they would see how obviously correct our case is.” Then go back to the same jury for the punitive phase.

The chief publicist for the college has to be Wile E. Coyote, and the lead defense attorney must be Elmer Fudd.

JackinSilverSpring | June 11, 2019 at 8:09 am

The Slimes is becoming an expert in fake news. It must be in competition with Collusion News Network.

The lawyer, Ty Beard, is talking about this case with Rekieta, a Youtuber with a practice.

Ty is the attorney of a voice-actor and his defamation lawsuit of “Sexual assault” by employees working for Funimation (SONY). Funimation itself is also one of the defendants, and SONY conducted an “investigation” which found the voice-actor (Vic Mignogna) “sexual assault” had merit – in public forum.

If you haven’t looked into the case, it might interest you.

I have a feeling this is going to end up like the McDonald’s Hot Coffee lawsuit.

One of the things I find fascinating about this case and a lot of others, is that the people engaging in harmful activity try to prevent people from taking photos or videos if themselves. If they really thought they were doing the right thing, they should feel comfortable with people taking photos or videos. If they don’t, that means somewhere in their minds, their conscience accuses them. Therefore, they don’t want the world to see what they’re doing. They realize that if their actions became public, they may be accused of wrongdoing, or perhaps even criminal activity. But if they really believed they were doing the right thing, they would be comfortable if their actions were publicized.

    MajorWood in reply to Sally MJ. | June 11, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Pretty much the same way that bodycams totally killed off the BLM movement. Pretty hard to get sympathy when your “poster boy” is pointing a gun at a cop.

    Silvertree in reply to Sally MJ. | June 11, 2019 at 2:06 pm

    This is wonderfully said. These people are living in a kind of special land with its own social mores. But when the cameras come around, they remember the real world, where they are clearly in the wrong. Interesting to watch some local news coverage of the protests. The Gibson’s supporters, though some are clearly a little shy, clearly give their names and where they are from, and explain exactly why they are there. You can see it is an act of courage for them. The students almost to a man (woman) stand silently and refuse to speak at all with the newsman. Many of them raise their signs to cover their faces, or turn away. A strange dynamic. If you feel so strongly about something, you should be prepared to fight boldly and speak out for your cause! But they are very young, in a strange town to them, we mustn’t forget that. And one did say they felt their words would be twisted, and they would not get a fair hearing. I think though that this is just part of the delusion that they are living in, and their subconscious realization that they are in the wrong.

    On a positive note: the College has instituted a new mandatory program for incoming students about how to be a good citizen of Oberlin and a good neighbor to those living there. This is exactly the right thing to do, and includes a talk by the town’s chief of police. It is incredible to read how the numbers of shoplifting incidents go way way down during Oberlin College’s summer break. The spokeswoman of the nearby Walmart estimated their losses at $10,000/year from shoplifting. If it were my school, I would immediately expel any student who was convicted of a crime, and that fact would be made known right from the beginning.

    But now I wonder, why are we not using our real names on this forum, most of us? Is there a similar dynamic among the students? Perhaps they feel themselves among strangers and are uncertain of what kind of hostility they might incur for their opinions?

I will be surprised if the “blast email” is not introduced into evidence. The issue of punitive damages is to make sure the defendant understands to magnitude of their wrongful acts. The email makes it clear the first phase finds have not made an impression necessitating further measures – punitive damages – to insure they understand. They could not wait a few days until this could not be crammed down their nasty throats in court??? To think, the moronic general counsel is a lawyer and composed this ammunition for plaintiffs! That bozo should be disbarred for incompetence harming his clients.