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The Internet Reacts to Whopping Punitive Damages Judgment Against Oberlin College in Defamation Case

The Internet Reacts to Whopping Punitive Damages Judgment Against Oberlin College in Defamation Case

“Stuff like this makes me wonder if we, in our social media enclave, underestimate how **** angry “normal people” get about these sorts of SJW attacks on regular folk.”

Thursday afternoon, a jury awarded the Gibson family $33 million in punitive damages in addition to the $11 million in compensatory damages they were awarded last week in the defamation suit against Oberlin College. That punitive award will be reduced, under state law, to $22 million (2x compensatory). So the total will be $33 million. The jury also awarded attorneys fees which have yet to be determined by the judge.

The judgment is a massive blow to Oberlin College who was accused of defaming the bakery and its owners over a shoplifting incident in 2016.

The skinny from Professor Jacobson

And more

The internet reacts

Too high you say?

Legal Insurrection has been covering the case since 2016 and is the only national outlet to have a reporter in the courtroom every day of the trial. For our extensive coverage of the case, see here.


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Payback is a bitch, ain’t it!

Congratulations to the Gibson family. Justice has been delivered and Meredith the Monster needs to wear this judgment, forever.

    TX-rifraph in reply to NotKennedy. | June 13, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    I hang it on the Board. They set policy and hire the executives. They should resign but won’t.

      jhn1 in reply to TX-rifraph. | June 13, 2019 at 8:16 pm

      A) many of the students’ fault
      B) many of the administrators’ fault
      C) many of the faculty, especially tenured faculty
      D) many of the university board

      How about answer E) all of the above

      Now, if you want to separate out for punishment which people comprise “many” the school would be a better place.

“The size of this penalty is ridiculous. Being called a bad name – even falsely – shouldn’t make anyone a millionaire.”

They’re not Pepsi. Given what the college has already done, and what it may continue to do so long as it is not “defamatory” per se, we should assume the bakery is done. Forever. This is the only money they will ever see. A college town’s college has made this local business its public enemy. Or are we actually lending credibility to that ridiculous valuation of the bakery the college gave us? The jury seems not to have thought much of that farce.

    dystopia in reply to JBourque. | June 14, 2019 at 6:49 am

    “The size of this penalty is ridiculous. Being called a bad name – even falsely – shouldn’t make anyone a millionaire.”

    Leveling false charges that ruin a persons 150 year old business is however worth millions.

I went to the Gibson’s website and CONGRATULATED them on their victory!!! Feel free to do the same

Staffing the administration with affirmative-action and SJW hires was, in retrospect, not such a great idea, huh?

Oberlin will learn nothing. They do not comprehend any of this. What they do is right by definition. Just listen to them and their lies. You will continue to hear more of the same SJW BS.

Just curious, how many of the 40 shoplifters were oberlin students???

    jhn1 in reply to dunce1239. | June 13, 2019 at 8:19 pm

    I think this came up before and it was a large majority.

    Silvertree in reply to dunce1239. | June 14, 2019 at 12:46 am

    33 million—I mean 33

    “The police data is important for the plaintiffs because it does not in any way show that Gibson’s had any propensity for chasing down black thieves more than whites. In fact, whites were far more likely to be arrested for shoplifting than blacks at this century old store on Oberlin town square.

    The police report finds there were 40 arrested for shoplifting at Gibson’s in that 2011-2016 time period, and 33 of those were college students. Of the 40 arrested, 32 were white (80%), six were African-American (15%), and two were Asian (5%).”

    from Legal Insurrection

What ever became of the original and diverse young scholars that had a taste for free wine? Where are they today? CEO of cutting edge companies? Graduate studies in Quantum Physics? McDonalds?

I think there is a new expression about “get woke……”

oberlin is in the FAST LANE to “….we can learn from this..”

. . . makes me wonder if we, in our social media enclave, underestimate how fucking angry “normal people” get about these sorts of SJW attacks

Oh, so it’s all the fault of those “normal people.”

Just a couple of years ago they were “deplorables,” now they’re “normals.”

I don’t know, is that an improvement?

    gospace in reply to tom_swift. | June 13, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Methinks they do underestimate the anger. Most people aren’t in any position to do anything about false attacks on them. The Gibson’s were.

    As the survivor of false sexual harassment complaints- where the accusers stayed employed even after it was apparent they were lying- congrats to the Gibsons on their legal victory.

    jackbenimble333 in reply to tom_swift. | June 15, 2019 at 10:01 am

    I think the anger of the “normal” public at these fake racist slurs is the take away lesson from this verdict. People are sick of the “white Hispanic” and the “Hands up don’t shoot” nonsense. This was the first chance a jury had to do something about it.

    If I was the Washington Post and CNN I would be quaking in my boots and reconsidering my legal strategy. The Covington kid is even more sympathetic then the Gibsons. He is a minor, he did nothing to provoke the incident like tackling a minority shoplifter, and he got smeared nationally rather than in a small Ohio town. The truth was readily available within hours of the incident and they did nothing to correct the record.

    I wish I were on that jury!

theduchessofkitty | June 13, 2019 at 7:16 pm

“The size of this penalty is ridiculous. Being called a bad name – even falsely – shouldn’t make anyone a millionaire.”

NO. PENALTY. IS. TOO. HIGH! – for an entity which has ruined a person or family’s reputation and/or livelihood due to defamation of character.

Calling someone a “racist” in this day and age is not being called a “bad name” – it is career-killing, reputation-destroying, and soul-crushing for anyone who is totally innocent of that charge, as the Gibsons have been this entire time. Oberlin College chose to destroy a business which was well-established in the community – and for what, exactly? If anyone needed a lesson in decency was not the Gibson’s, but the students who acted like feral tomcats and robbed the store. Had Oberlin imposed discipline upon those students and even expelled them for their crime, we would have never heard about any of this.

Oberlin chose to ruin the Gibsons, Bolshevik-style. However, they forgot that Real Life America is not their Bolshevik fantasies of a country.

Let this be the beginning when the people of Real Life America realize they can take back their country from those Marxist a-holes.

    At any rate, it wasn’t simply calling the bakery’s operators racists. I am remembering LI’s reporting on the police response – there was real and legitimate concern that the college-supported demonstrations might break out into violence. Saying in an email a business is racist is one thing – championing a public protest flirting with a riot burned the “memory” of the racism into the student body, where it remains rampant today. Perhaps finally some will question their assumptions of the truth of the matter.

    jackbenimble333 in reply to theduchessofkitty. | June 15, 2019 at 10:06 am

    My understanding is that the Gibsons offered a very generous settlement to Oberlin that merely required a retraction. Oberlin arrogantly decided to double down. They got what the deserved.

    And calling somebody a racist is more than just calling them a bad name. It is a life-changing defamation. The left has been throwing this term around willy-nilly at anybody who disagrees with them without substantiation and the jury obviously decided that it is time for it to stop. Good on them!

If a “penalty” doesn’t hurt – a lot – then it isn’t a penalty. Oberlin in unlikely to change their behavior, but $33M might get them to consider it. A million or two? Water off a duck.

Brave Sir Robbin | June 13, 2019 at 7:55 pm

Goodbye Dean Raimondo. Hope the good feeling you derived from your malicious spasm of moralistic hubris was worth it. Have fun paying legal fees for several years trying to get your errors and omissions insurance company to payout for your malicious behavior. You should not fight it. To do so is only a fool’s errand. Declare bankruptcy, and hope to have the court reduce your legal liability.

Brave Sir Robbin | June 13, 2019 at 8:01 pm

Seeing as the entirety of the Oberlin leadership and it legal counsel have been so inept and misguided in strategy through this entire episode, I assume Oberlin will insist on appeal. Appeals normally have little chance of success.

I predict Oberlin will appeal on the basis that (1) the compensatory damages, and therefore the punitive damages, were excessive, (2) evidence presented did not sustain a legal threshold to claim malice, and the judge erred in instructing the jury to consider malice and therefore an award of punitive damages of legal fees to plaintiff, (3) the judge erred in not moving venue of trial given the animosity of the local population towards the college which precluded fairness.

    Far more likely they will claim, believably, that they are dumb and incompetent. We too stupid and clumsy to be held responsible. Isn’t there some kind of affirmative action reduction in cases like this? We always have had breaks because of slavery and we should get one now.

    alaskabob in reply to Brave Sir Robbin. | June 13, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    Would I be crazy to think OC will drag this out hoping SCOTUS is stacked with more SJW justices circa 2022?

      Tom Servo in reply to alaskabob. | June 13, 2019 at 10:28 pm

      It’s not going federal no matter what. Ohio State Supreme Court is as high as this can go, and honestly, I think they will decline to hear any appeal that tries to go that far.

    Tom Servo in reply to Brave Sir Robbin. | June 13, 2019 at 8:50 pm

    Legally, I believe you’re correct, that is what they will claim – becasue those are the only ground any competent attorney could come up with. BUT claiming and winning are two different things, as you well know – start with the Venue claim. I can’t think of any tort verdict that was ever overturned because a change of venue wasn’t granted – that would take overwhelming evidence of bias, and that just isn’t in evidence here. That involves attacking the credibility of the Jury itself, and that is almost always a losing position to take in any American court.

    As you also know, Juries are generally given wide latitude to grant compensatory damages, as long as they are based on some evidence – and Gibson’s attorney appears to have done a good job of providing that evidence. On the other side, I don’t see that Oberlin’s legal team did anything at all to counter the claims that Gibson’s made, other than to say the business was worthless.

    Malice – The letters and testimony of Raimondo did a pretty good job of establishing that all on their own.

    In short, I think you’re right that this is what they will claim, but I think it’s a losing proposition for them all the way down the line.

      quaker lady in reply to Tom Servo. | June 14, 2019 at 5:26 am

      I agree, from what LI has reported, the legal team did not make much attempt to counter the plaintiffs’ actual theory. Their attorney’s final statement in the punitive portion implied that she thought the case was about the student protests rather than the college’s actions. I have wondered if the College’s legal posture was driven by the general counsel over-riding good advice, but it looks as if they were all on board with the “just protecting free speech defense.”

        clintack in reply to quaker lady. | June 14, 2019 at 6:18 am

        Is ineffective counsel an appealable issue in civil court?

        Their general counsel sending out a mass email insulting the jury before damages had been awarded could be Exhibit 1.

          Brave Sir Robbin in reply to clintack. | June 14, 2019 at 9:45 am

          This works only on very rare cases but certainly could not work here. Oberlin would be considered a sophisticated litigant. They are a large and complex institution that regularly employs legal counsel for various things and has an inhouse counsel on staff. They have the ability and capacity to provide adequate oversight and direction of their counsel.

    stevewhitemd in reply to Brave Sir Robbin. | June 14, 2019 at 8:30 am

    The one claim there that I could see having a chance with a crusty, curmudgeonly appeals court would be the issue of the change of venue. The trial didn’t have to be moved to Cleveland as the defense wanted, but it could have been moved to another rural county. I’m sure the Gibson’s legal team will have a response to that.

Hopefully this is a drop in the bucket to what Nick Sandmann will get from CNN and the WAPO. Sandmann’s case should be easier to prove.

The worst the boys from Covington Catholic could have been accused of was being rude to a 62 year old man (which the full tape showed they weren’t). How is this national news? How can the coverage CNN and the WAPO gave it be justified?

CNN’s non-coverage of Pennsylvania state legislator Brian Sims who harassed an elderly woman outside an abortion center, broadcast it on social media and tried to dox three teenage girls should make this an easy win.

To get here, Oberlin had to make many mistakes and not atone for any of them.

(1) admit angry leftist “activists” via holistic admissions
(2) hire angry leftist activist administrators
(3) have no control from the General Counsel’s office warning them of legal liability
(4) ignore / spit on pleas from Gibson’s to settle this and allow them some dignity
(5) rev up the students and come within an inch of “unleashing” them.

Much here to punish, much for Oberlin to learn from it. Not mentioned enough is the need to start admitting Boy Scouts and their female counterparts, 4-H members, nerdy geeks, some buff athietes — normal people who won’t turn into a mob and might even fit well into the town — rather than angry leftist activists.

Admissions is a nontrivial part of the fault here. What they do is not obviously apparent — you don’t know why they admitted this 35% and rejected the other 65%. But it’s obvious that being leftist and activist is favored, and that’s got to change. Admissions leaders need to be fired to show that this is changing.

    puhiawa in reply to artichoke. | June 14, 2019 at 1:04 am

    That is correct. Like the Ivy, they admit social rejects ahead of normal students. Work in a meth lab but now help meth addicts? + 100 points.

    rdm in reply to artichoke. | June 14, 2019 at 6:48 am

    Mistakes? No. Intentional and deliberate ill acts.

    artichoke in reply to artichoke. | June 14, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    Well President Ambar’s statement today pretty comprehensively answered all that. They’re not going to do anything differently and don’t admit that anything they did violated their mission and values.

    And they’re not going to pay up easily, either.

    Does that campus have to be seized to pay the judgment?

So, if Oberlin has to cut back on grants to students likely to put them in this position again… isn’t that just a bonus?

Once again, this is all about tribalism.

When Oberlin College first opened in the Town of Oberlin, the town welcomed them. The townsfolk an the college shared many ideological views with the college, including abolition of slavery and equal rights. But, something changed.

Over the years, the college became the castle on the hill populated by foreign aristocrats with no ties to the surrounding community. Two tribes now exist in the area, the college tribe and the town tribe. The town tribe, in a sense of enlightened self-interest [Oberlin College is a major contributor to the town economy] deals with the college and its inhabitants in a fair and equal manner. The college, its administration and residents [students] feel free to deal with the members of the town tribe anyway that they desire.

Now, I am guessing that Oberlin College has a history department. And, there are historical examples of exactly what happens when this type of dynamic is allowed to develop and exist. Eventually, the aggrieved tribe [the townsfolk] will take action to stop the unequal balance between the two tribes. Yet, because of hubris, the rulers of Oberlin College ignored historical warnings. Now they have to pay the price. Fortunately, in this day and age, the townsfolk do not raze the castle, they get a legal judgement against the college.

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” – Winston Churchill, paraphrasing George Santayana

    alaskabob in reply to Mac45. | June 13, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    In the 1770’s the London Tribe continued its condescending …dare I say it…patriarchal rule over the Colonial Tribe. Maybe Oberlin History Department might want to read up on that one also.

    Barry in reply to Mac45. | June 13, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    “Fortunately, in this day and age, the townsfolk do not raze the castle, they get a legal judgement against the college.”

    Hmm, I might change that word, “Fortunately”, to Unfortunately. It’s a more permanent and lesson teaching solution.

This is in stark contrast to the relationship between Claremont McKenna and the town of Claremont. When I was there we loved the town and its businesses. I went on line to see how things are now, and they appear to be just as strong today with the “town of trees and PhDs” cited as among the 5 best places to live in America, with the small businesses thriving.

    jackbenimble333 in reply to puhiawa. | June 15, 2019 at 11:09 am

    When I went to CMC (Claremont Men’s College in my day which had very recently gone co-ed) it was a bastion of conservative thinking. The kids and certainly not the faculty or administration were unlikely to hang the racist label on anybody. It seems in the last couple of decades it has been infested by leftest SJWs. There was a very prominent case of a black female psychology professor who committed a fake hate crime against herself. And more recently there was a huge SJW protest after the 2016 election. Don’t think this kind of thing could not happen at CMC. (Of course it is much more likely to happen at Scripps which specializes in Grievance Studies or Pitzer which has always been over-the-top liberal.)

PostLiberal | June 13, 2019 at 9:11 pm

Fava Bean:

I remember when Republicans were unified in their stand against excessive damage awards in civil cases, especially when no life or health was lost.The size of this penalty is ridiculous.

The jurors were from Lorain County. In 2016, the Lorain County vote was nearly evenly split:Hillary Clinton 66,949 votes; Donald Trump 66,818 votes. Odds are there were a lot of Democrat jurors who considered the jury decision the right one. So stop kvetching.

karl_lembke | June 13, 2019 at 9:15 pm

I went to the Gibson’s website and CONGRATULATED them on their victory!!! Feel free to do the same

You could, I suppose, add a congratulatory note in the comment when you order some of their stuff shipped to you.

healthguyfsu | June 13, 2019 at 9:30 pm

Give us alll the meltdown. Is it possible for snowflakes to go nuclear?

PostLiberal | June 13, 2019 at 9:43 pm

Fava Bean

Oberlin employees aren’t responsible for most of the damage. This penalty is too high.

Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College Closing Argument: “When a powerful institution says you are racist, you are doomed.”

In August of 2017, when the three shoplifters plead guilty and were put on probation, Toni Myers, Oberlin College’s Multicultural Resource Center Director then, send out a text which said, “After a year, I hope we rain fire and brimstone on that store.”

That year length in question, Plakas said, was the time it would take for the three shoplifters to finish probation and have their criminal record expunged.

He also told the jury that the definition of the “fire and brimstone” that Oberlin College administrators were sharing was two definitions in biblical terms: “torment suffered by sinners in hell” and “punishment that lasts forever.”

Be careful. You might get what you wish for- though it may boomerang back on you.

Soros will pay it. It won’t affect oberlin at all in the short term, except to humilate it.

The only way this victory will have an effect, is if ALL victims of oberlin’s b.s. sue the hell out of their oppressors. Soros nor his money nor anyone’s money stretch that far.

    This college has been losing students ever since the incident. It is now dipping in the endowment. I think much of the endowment is restricted. ………. There will be hell to pay.

We now have a national argument that “Mayor Pete” is too heterosexual to get elected.

I am totally unelectable. I like girls.

Commonsense64 | June 14, 2019 at 7:12 am

All these SJW people claiming Oberlin can not be held responsible for the actions of the students sure change their position quickly when it comes to blaming gun manufacturers for the actions og gun owners don’t they…….

@favabean ” remember when Republicans were unified in their stand against excessive damage awards in civil cases, especially when no life or health was lost.

Yes and I remember when the left claimed to be united against the abuse of authority But that was then. Today it was fun watching a big ol’ bully get punched in the face.

Brave Sir Robbin | June 14, 2019 at 9:39 am

Actually a good point. This is unlikely due to the finding of malicious intent, as noted, depending upon state law. Perhaps she should grab all the cash she can personally carry and get across the US border instead.

Comanche Voter | June 14, 2019 at 1:36 pm

Fava Bean’s comments in the post are synonymous with horse manure. They “didn’t lose their business, the doors are still open”.

It’s pretty clear that Fava Bean is a government employee. Nothing much happens at say the DMV, not much gets done–but “the doors are still open”.

If you’ve worked in privately owned small businesses you’d know the difference between a vibrant going concern–supported several families for five generations–and one where you have to lay off employees for lack of business. It hurts when you have to do that.

Of course if you are a DMV “worker” there’s not much of a reputation to lose. So I can see where Fava Bean is coming from.

I’d say that the jury probably got it about right when they awarded $11 million as general damages–loss of business, loss of reputation, defamation etc. Maybe it was more than they should have awarded–after all Oberlin said the business was “only worth $35K”. But it’s not so high that you could say they clearly got it wrong (which is what Oberlin did in fact say in that e-mail).

General damages are supposed to correct a wrong. Punitive damages are intended to be a slap up longside the head saying, “Now be danged sure that you don’t do that again!” Different purposes–different amount.

Jurors award punitive damages to get the attention of miscreants. I’d say it worked.