Image 01 Image 03

Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College trial reflects Higher Ed disconnect from the lives of most Americans

Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College trial reflects Higher Ed disconnect from the lives of most Americans

Some thoughts as Verdict Day approaches. Like the protest sign says, “This Runs Deeper.”

Later this week the jury in Gibson Bros. v. Oberlin College should get the case.

I wanted to put down some thoughts as Verdict Day approaches.

Dan McGraw has done an excellent job keeping us all informed. Here are links to our trial coverage:

I’ve also followed the trial accounts in the local Chronicle-Telegram. That said, there’s no substitute for being in the courtroom to observe witness demeanor, feel courtroom atmosphere, and sense the ebb and flow of a trial.

I’ve tried really hard not to make predictions, and I’m sticking to that. In my 22 years in private practice before joining Cornell, I won cases I should have lost, and lost cases I should have won. This case could go either way.

Within the limitations of our ability to know, I’ve come away with some overall impressions, in no particular order:

First, from the start of this case I have questioned the aggressive and demeaning attacks on the Gibsons as a defense strategy. There is no evidence that the Gibsons did anything wrong, unless you consider stopping people from stealing something wrong. That lawful act of protecting one’s property nonetheless has devastated a 5-generation business because of Oberlin College racial politics. Gibson’s Bakery survived two World Wars, the Depression, the turmoil of the 1960s, and the so-called Great Recession, but it may not survive Oberlin College’s social justice warriors and their faculty and administrative enablers. If the jury understands this, the other pieces of the case fall into line, factually and legally.

Second, I never cease to be amazed at the arrogance of the college community as reflected in the defense that Gibson’s Bakery was close to worthless. It’s the arrogance of the credentialed. A business that is in its 5th generation, and that currently supports three of those generations, is something of value. A business that employed almost a dozen local employees prior to this incident is something to value. Ultimately the jury will have to put a monetary value on the dramatic drop in business, and the loss of reputation of the individuals, but to demean the business the way was done is maddening.

Third, and related, it doesn’t seem that the defense has provided the jury with a reasonable middle ground of damages as an alternative to the plaintiffs’ 30-year $5 million plus damage theory. That could be a mistake, leaving a jury that finds liability with little choice but to award the higher amount if it dismisses the $35,000 defense theory. While the jury could do its own math, I never like to let the trier of fact do math.

Fourth, the college community has moved on. This is history to them, it’s the present and the future to the Gibsons. The jury may put themselves in the Gibsons’ shoes.

Fifth, if the defendants win, it will be based on the technicalities of the law. The Gibsons survived summary judgment and a motion for a directed verdict. But it’s not over. The jury form could be critical. Will there be a general verdict as to each count, or will there be detailed jury interrogatories running through the elements of each claim? The plaintiffs likely want the former, the defense the latter. The defense hope is to make technical arguments as to various elements, the plaintiffs’ hope is to win the big picture.

Sixth, as an aside we haven’t covered yet, Lexington Insurance Company sought to intervene to seek specific jury interrogatories that could help determine whether insurance coverage applies. The judge rejected that request. To the extent the jury finds the defendants engaged in intentional torts, that could bust insurance coverage.

Seventh, it didn’t have to get to this. The college could have made it right by standing up to the student activists who made false and defamatory accusations against the Gibsons. But standing up to student activists seems to be the hardest thing for college administrators to do at Oberlin College and many other campuses.

Eighth, if the defendants win, or the verdict for the plaintiffs is small, the wrong lessons will be learned. It will reinforce the attitudes that led to false charges of racism and attempts to destroy the Gibsons’ business as if the Gibsons’ lives were toys to be played with as part of a campus-wide group therapy.

Ninth, thank goodness there are lawyers who are willing to take these cases. I don’t know on what basis the plaintiffs’ lawyers were retained, but I assume it is a contingency fee. Unfortunately, some of the seedier contingency fee lawyers give everyone a bad name, but the contingency fee can be the great equalizer.

Tenth, and last for now, this case is something of a metaphor for liberal arts higher education, and the disconnect from the lives of most Americans. Like the protest sign says, “This Runs Deeper.” The personal feelings of social justice warriors took precedence over the facts and the real lives of people in the community.

[Note: The title was changed after initial publication.]


WAJ NOTE: Our trial coverage is a project of the Legal Insurrection Foundation. Your support helps make this type of coverage possible.

Donate Now!


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


Whatever the verdict, this case should (but won’t) teach SJWs that screaming “RAAAACCCIIIISSSSSTTT” without sufficient reason is a vile act that harms real people who don’t deserve it.

    RodFC in reply to irv. | June 2, 2019 at 10:13 pm

    You think they care? Even if false, Gibson’s is still owned by capitalist pigs.

    pst314 in reply to irv. | June 3, 2019 at 7:05 am

    One of the purposes of leftist propaganda is to intimidate everyone by demonstrating that they can destroy even the most innocent person.

    Virginia42 in reply to irv. | June 3, 2019 at 7:58 am

    Yep. You can’t fix stupid.

Second, I never cease to be amazed at the arrogance of the college community as reflected in the defense that Gibson’s Bakery was close to worthless. It’s the arrogance of the credentialed.

This arrogance is a manifestation of an utterly corrupt culture, a culture that thinks itself deserving of the highest praise and submissive attention but that in fact deserves only contempt.

Fourth, the college community has moved on. This is history to them, it’s the present and the future to the Gibsons.

Our credentialed classes, notably academics, have a long history of callous irresponsibilty for which they never pay a price–only others suffer. This must change.

    94Corvette in reply to pst314. | June 2, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    One of the core lessons from ‘The Little Prince’ I learned was that ‘You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.’ In life, in love, it is true but that concept is passé.

Based on what I’ve read, it’s Oberlin that should be put out of business, not Gibson’s.

    Colonel Travis in reply to artichoke. | June 3, 2019 at 1:15 am

    No kidding.

    I am worried that Gibson’s is a tiny island in the Social Justice Sea and that the jury is a tsunami about to wipe it out.

    Jackie in reply to artichoke. | June 3, 2019 at 6:01 am

    Unfortunately closing the college would really hurt the small community. The college is probably the largest employer in the town.

      The Friendly Grizzly in reply to Jackie. | June 3, 2019 at 6:34 am

      That is so, but, in the long run, some company might come in, buy the grounds, and do something useful with them.

I never like to let the trier of fact do math.

Well, that’s certainly a polite way to put it.

The only thing that ‘runs deep’ is the heads of the people defending three sleazeball shoplifters so far up their arses. Then again, many of them know the truth, but that’s not good race-hustle business, is it?

    OnTheLeftCoast in reply to | June 3, 2019 at 2:11 am

    Trump had just won the election and the shoplifters were worried that their chances of collecting reparations for slavery were unjustly going to be put on hold.

    So they were collecting reparations prematurely. The Gibsons are racists, so it’s OK.

    No justice, no peace.

I am amazed that private, pricey liberal arts colleges like Oberlin ($65k a year) manage to stay in business. I am equally surprised that most so-called Catholic colleges and universities remain open.

Glad to see point 6 and look forward to more details.

As I stand up my fledgling little insurance agency, I’ve been shooting the recaps and my comments through the lens of — what type of coverage could be covering this insanity?

Smells like insurance is NOT wanting to be on the hook here and there could be a second suit between the school and their insurer. (…plugs in popcorn popper and puts butter in the microwave)

    Jackie in reply to Andy. | June 3, 2019 at 6:05 am

    The college spent 50 grand just for the financial expert. I wouldn’t be surprised if the defense cost several hundred thousand. Why didn’t the college settle?

      Tom Servo in reply to Jackie. | June 3, 2019 at 9:10 am

      SJW’s who think that they are Practically Perfect in Every Way never settle.

      to people of the mindset of Oberlin’s administrators, everything is ideological.

      Andy in reply to Jackie. | June 3, 2019 at 1:17 pm

      To me that is an important question. Some insurance coverage requires the insured to give their rights to defense to the insurer. You hit a kid in your car while you are drunk, the insurance company decides whether to fight or settle. Other coverage like Dr’s Malpractice, E&O are consent to settle.

      IF insurance is getting stuck with the bill, this MUST be a consent to settle coverage, because I just don’t see an insurance carrier footing the bill for SJW protection.
      However that coverage has its limits and they will only defend to a certain amount. Also it cannot be for intentional acts as the Prof W noted and it is smelling like there is a case that this was intentional. So in the end Oberlin is risking the loss of the case, legal fees (since insurance will not pay for intentional acts), and the longer term damage to alumni donations. I’m sure SOME of these older alumni donors have pretty favorable memories of that sweet old couple in the college town and know that this is nonsense.

      It makes no sense at all that they are playing this game.

People often do what they do out of a variety of motives. For that reason, I don’t think fear was the primary reason Oberlin’s faculty and administration sided with the student brownshirts. Instead, I suspect these faculty and administrators were already in full support of the students before this, since direct terrorism aimed at “racists” is both effective and emotionally satisfying to many “tolerant” Progressives.

And don’t think for one moment that the students, faculty and administrators who are behind this are just bluffing or exaggerating. They firmly believe their deranged rhetoric about racism and how Gibson’s is a hotbed of KKK-style white supremacy. The only reason that Gibson’s was not burned to the ground that day and the owners slaughtered was the fear of the perps that they might actually be held accountable by law enforcement, whom they view as a rival gang too big and well armed to defeat (for now).

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to Recovering Lutheran. | June 3, 2019 at 6:39 am

    You mention the store being torched. If the verdict goes in favor of Gibson’s, I fully expect there will be riots, and at the very least, Gibson properties will be burned, and attempts made on the lives of the families.

    I don’t know the laws regarding firearms in Ohio, but I hope the Gibson family is well-armed, and that they have friends they can count on. With the city of Oberlin being as leftist as it is, I fully expect the police will be given stand-down orders. The Gibsons will be on their own.

      If the verdict goes in favor of Gibson’s, I fully expect there will be riots

      I hope you are wrong, but if you are right then I hope Gibson’s and neighbors will be well prepared with the local version of version of Roof Koreans.

        Andy in reply to pst314. | June 3, 2019 at 1:21 pm

        It’s June. Students are going home and have long since moved on to committing reputational suicide via online death threats over the next hash-tag-microaggression-injustice.

          pst314 in reply to Andy. | June 3, 2019 at 6:17 pm

          Good point to remind us of.
          The original shoplifting incident was in November 2016.
          I suppose a key question will be whether the hard-core leftists who return in the fall want to use Gibson’s as a political pawn in their endless grievance-mongering.

counsel4pay | June 3, 2019 at 1:53 am

I have prayed long and hard for Gibson’s, and fasted twice. From the start, many commentators here perceived this as more than a simple civil damages suit. This contest, in a rather common Ohio courtroom, is a microcosm of the battle between evil and righteousness which is being fought the length and breadth of our Republic.

Thus, we can, should, and DO humbly ask that the God of Our Fathers, whose miraculous interventions gave birth to our nation. again reveal Himself so that we hear in our hearts the victory bells of that immortal, inspired hymn:

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail…”

I believe the Lord has spoken peace to my soul and cheered me and many others who have sought Divine aid for a noble family. I believe the Gibsons are worthy to receive o protection from a generation of faithless, and largely debauched, social justice warriors, the faithless and complicit college which organized and motivated them and the corrupt and debased media which commands them.

And, yes, I have long warned about “Special Verdicts”. Not here, not now, please God. As bitter, lying conspirators gnash their teeth and scream insults and invective, I believe that honor will overcome over treachery and truth will overcome deceit so that we see a MEANINGFUL VERDICT FOR PLAINTIFFS. I am honored to stand with Gibsons.

Pray with us: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16

I wonder what difference it would make if college applicants had to work 6-12 months in retail/service/food before they could be accepted.

A taste of the real world would be worth real dividends to college applicants.

    The Friendly Grizzly in reply to Sian. | June 3, 2019 at 6:42 am

    Retail. Janitorial. Veg prep. Bar-back. Cab driver. Warehouse work. In short, any job requiring physical effort and with little reward. Let them see how much of the country lives and earns their way; that life doesn’t start in the corner office, or with a sinecure civil service job gotten with their degrees in soft majors.

      Professors and administrators too: A lot of people in academia spend their entire lives in the “education” world and never learn squat about life outside their bubble.

I find myself fervently hoping that Gibson’s Bakery not only wins, but wins big. Likewise, I fervently hope that Gibson’s success spurs others to fight back against the sins of various colleges (e.g., sexual assault cases where the accused is denied their rights) until it becomes abundantly clear how this social justice craze is nothing more than an incredibly destructive fad that has no future here or anywhere else. I hope that these universities learn their lesson in that they are the ones in charge not the students. Too many colleges of today are just plain running scared of their students and it has yet to occur to too many the absurdity of bringing in largely uneducated students fresh out of high school and then allowing them to dictate what courses should be taught, what information should be included in those courses, and so forth. (If I am an ignorant, uneducated person, then what causes me to think I know better than the professors and such what I need to study to become educated?)

The bottom line is simple. Until people start going to jail, until colleges start facing incredible judgments, until colleges start going out of business for mismanagement and terrible leadership, and until parents start realizing the disservice these colleges are providing their children thus prompting them to cease funding/supporting this debacle, nothing will change for the better.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to Cleetus. | June 3, 2019 at 9:11 am

    “Until people start going to jail, until colleges start facing incredible judgments, until colleges start going out of business for mismanagement and terrible leadership, and until parents start realizing the disservice”

    I agree, but I also think that those assaulting, looting, burning, rioting, need to be put down. It is a shame that the three thieves who committed the assault were not put down.

    paracelsus in reply to Cleetus. | June 3, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly, but it’s not going to happen until white-collar, middle-class parents, who’ve striven for 20-25 years to put their little darlings thru 4-5 years of education realize that their offspring can live as well, if not better, having a blue collar job.

Progressives hate kulaks. Not only are they at the bottom of the victim hierarchy but they resist dependence on the expanding progressive nanny state. Unlike big corporations and institutions that are happy to be bought off and implement the progressive agenda.

Also: Victor Davis Hanson wrote an essay some years back on the contempt that our credentialed elites have for working people: I paraphrase, but in part he noted that they loathe and resent those hordes of working class people with their working class pleasures and recreations spoiling the world for refined folks like themselves: RV’s, motorboats, ATV’s, motorcycles, etc. The working class should not be able to afford such luxuries; such wealth should be reserved for the credentialed elites who deserve it.

Oberlin’s experts Sean Saari’s bio from his company’s website.

Credibility as a expert witness has a lot of value. Since his testimony and report are now public record, every opposing counsel in future litigation will impeach/destroy his testimony. Far too many errors in his valuation.

“[Oberlin] college could have made it right by standing up to the student activists who made false and defamatory accusations against the Gibsons.”

Thing is, students, activist and otherwise, come and go, four, five years or whatever time some students milk it for. OTOH, the Gibsons, the whole Oberlin community around the college has been there its whole lifetime. Not neighborly at all. The college deserves to lose, and lose big.

JusticeDelivered | June 3, 2019 at 12:04 pm

“Expert witnesses are vital to any case involving technical, scientific, or otherwise specialized knowledge. Due to their knowledge on relevant subject matter, courts will place a greater value on an expert’s testimony. This reliance on expert testimony can, however, be ruinous to an attorney’s case when an expert provides mistaken, misleading or otherwise false testimony.

Witness Immunity
Traditionally, in the United states, all witnesses were considered absolutely immune from suit for the testimony they provided in court, even if the witness made a mistake in their testimony. In fact, even if a witness’ testimony was made maliciously, with the knowledge that it was false, early court rulings suggested that an attorney could not recover damages.”

“A Change in the Tide
In recent years, however, many jurisdictions have been slowly chipping away at this doctrine.”

Is there any chance of showing a conspiracy by Oberlin College and Sean Saari to defraud the court and Gibsons?

    Joe-dallas in reply to JusticeDelivered. | June 3, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    I would think his credibility in future cases is shot to h3ll.

    In future cases, the opposing counsel will have him explain why he took positions contrary to standard valuation practices.

    He will also be saddled with the label of a “for hire expert”

Was just poking around on the interwebz and discovered that the college took control of the alumni facebook page. There was speculation that this was done so that they could control the flow of information about the Gibsons case. I guess that I can say that everything I know about Totalitarianism I learned at Oberlin College, and some of it was in Bob Neil’s German History course.

    MBR in reply to MajorWood. | June 5, 2019 at 2:49 am

    I’m a member of that Facebook page, and what you say is true. Do you remember what website you read that on?

    In response to Oberlin staff declaring themselves administrators/moderators of the alumni FB group and then moderating with a very heavy hand, one alum created another uncensored, unofficial FB page for alumni, and most of the discussion quickly migrated away from the official page.