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Gibson’s Bakery files cross-appeal to restore full $44 million verdict against Oberlin College

Gibson’s Bakery files cross-appeal to restore full $44 million verdict against Oberlin College

“the trial court’s application of Ohio’s statutory damages caps to the facts of this case violate[d] Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights”

Two weeks ago, Oberlin College and its Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo filed their appeal from the two jury verdicts in favor of Gibson’s Bakery and its owners : $11 million compensatory damages rendered on June 7, 2019, and $33 million in punitive damages rendered on June 13, 2019, after a separate punitive damages trial.

The combined $44 million was reduced by the Court under Ohio’s tort caps to just over $25 million. The Court also awarded over $6.5 million in legal fees and costs against defendants on top of the damages. Defendants were required to post a $36 million bond to secure the judgment pending appeal.

Oberlin College has lawyered-up to fight the appeal, Oberlin College hires high-powered D.C. lawyers to appeal Gibson’s Bakery verdict.

Gibson’s Bakery has just filed its cross appeal, and as previously predicted, Gibson’s has filed a cross appeal to restore the full $44 million verdicts, which added to the attorney’s fee award, would the total to over $50 million if Gibson’s is successful on appeal. The cross appeal is “conditional” because it’s only a reaction to the appeal; had there been no appeal, there would have been no cross appeal.

You can read the appeal papers for each side:

Defendants Notice of Appeal (pdf.)

Defendants Docketing Statement for Appeal (pdf.)

Plaintiffs Notice of Cross Appeal and Conditional Cross Appeal (pdf.)

Plaintiffs Docketing Statement for Cross Appeal (pdf.)

Here are the issues raised by Oberlin College in its docketing statement:

Probable issues for appeal:
Defendants-Appellants anticipate that the following will be included as issues on appeal:

1. Whether Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiffs’ libel claim where the student speech at issue is constitutionally protected and Defendants did not publish that speech, much less do so with the constitutionally required degree of fault;

2. Whether Oberlin College is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiffs’ intentional infliction of emotional distress claim where the student speech at issue is constitutionally protected and/ or Plaintiffs failed to prove the essential elements of their claim;

3. Whether Dr. Meredith Raimondo is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Plaintiff Gibson Bros., Inc.’s tortious interference claim where, as a matter of law, Dr. Raimondo cannot interfere with Defendants’ own relationship with Plaintiff;

4. Whether, in the alternative, Defendants are entitled to a new trial where the trial court erroneously excluded evidence of conflicting information Defendants receivedabout the underlying incident and Plaintiffs’ reputation within the community, erroneously admitted other evidence, failed to give jurors proper instructions, wrongly allowed Plaintiffs to attempt to prove actual malice twice, and the jury awarded excessive compensatory and punitive damages;

5. Whether, in the alternative, the trial court improperly applied compensatory (R.C. 2315.18) and punitive (R.C. 2315.21) damages caps.

Here are the issues raised for the cross-appeal, from the Gibson’s docketing statement:

Probable issues for appeal:

Whether the trial court’s application of Ohio’s statutory damages caps to the facts of this case violate Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights: Whether the trial court correctly applied Ohio’s statutory damages caps to the facts of this case; Whether the trial court erroneously excluded certain expert witness testimony proffered by Plaintiffs (conditional cross appeal): Whether the trial court erroneously determined the burden of proof on defamation during summary judgment (conditional cross appeal); Whether the trial court erred when it granted summary judgment to Defendants on Plaintiffs’ slander claim (conditional cross appeal)

I’ll be discussing the case and the appeal at my November 1 lecture for the James Wilson Institute, to be held at the Hillsdale College Center in D.C.  The event is sold out, but we might be able to squeeze in a few more Legal Insurrection readers, so if you want in, sign up for the waitlist, then email us. No guarantee, but we’ll try.

[Featured Image: Gibson Family and legal team after punitive damages verdict. Photo credit Bob Perkoski for Legal Insurrection Foundation]


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Do you think a tiny little technicality like Rooker-Feldman will prevent Oberlin from getting a US District Court Judge involved?

    freddy33 in reply to dystopia. | October 23, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    No one has gone to federal court.

      Tom Servo in reply to freddy33. | October 23, 2019 at 4:28 pm

      I think Oberlin will try, it explains why they’re publicizing all this 1st Amendment talk – that’s a tactic to try to create a constitutional issue that would allow them to do that.

      BUT I think the attempt will fail, since the case was never about “free speech” at all. Therefore, it’s just an Ohio tort law case, and the Ohio Supreme Court will be as high as it can theoretically go.

        freddy33 in reply to Tom Servo. | October 23, 2019 at 4:36 pm

        You don’t have to go to federal court to raise a constitutional issue.

        It can be appealed from the Ohio Supreme Court to the US Supreme Court. Personally the issue I think is most interesting from a US Supreme Court standpoint is not the first amendment issue, but the punitive damages issue raised by the cross-appeal. In BMW v. Gore the US Supreme Court said that trial courts needed to weigh various factors when deciding whether punitive damages were correct. The Ohio statute tries to do away with those factors and this trial court made no attempt at weighing these factors.

        The factors are (courtesy Wikipedia):

        The degree of reprehensibility of the defendant’s conduct;
        The ratio to the compensatory damages awarded (actual or potential harm inflicted on the plaintiff); and
        Comparison of the punitive damages award and civil or criminal penalties that could be imposed for comparable misconduct.

        MajorWood in reply to Tom Servo. | October 24, 2019 at 1:08 pm

        I suspect invoking the 1st here will be about as successful as using the 21st to get off a DUI. All they have left is confusion, and they know it.

        The one mystery to me, both here and every other time it has happened, is why people continue to choose the path to where the coverup always ends up being way way worse than than the actual crime. Did people learn nothing from Martha Stewart? Or is it just a form of delusional mental illness that people are powerless to resist. In less than 3 years they have gone from a simple written apology to $36.5M (and growing).

        In 12-step recovery we often talk about the danger of having one’s bottom drop faster than their actual descent. That seems to be the case for Oberlin. No one, it seems, has a drawn a line in the sand. Reasonable, rational, people settle at some point. I wonder if at any point anyone involved in the process at Oberlin made a proposal that if it gets to $X, we settle. From what I am seeing, this hypothetical line in the sand has always been behind where the situation stood in reality.* When Oberlin had been awarded $11M, the college offered $4M(?). I guess no one at Oberlin has the capacity to see the future and then act accordingly. If so, a $100K offer and an apology back in February 2017 would have been made. These people are not the visionaries that they imagine themselves to be. And that is why they will reach the $67M number that I see 3 years from now. At this point I am mostly here out of morbid curiosity. That, and I am a huge fan of train wrecks.

        * Back in 2008 we had a property on the market. As the bubble burst, we dropped the price 10% (ouch) and it sold. We had a neighbor with a similar property who kept dropping the price in $10K increments every other month until it finally sold 2 years later at 25% less than the original listing. Oberlin is like my neighbor. Arrogance has overruled common sense (and decency).

Supporters can go to gibsonsbakeryandcandy dot com and check out their online shop.

Comanche Voter | October 23, 2019 at 1:59 pm

Well as long as the Gibsons have to put up with all that horse hockey from Oberlin and its high priced outside appellate lawyers, they may as well go for the gusto–and the full $44 million.

Respondent Oberlin College’s attorneys will tie this up in court for years — just because they can. As a result, it’s very likely that at least two members of the immediate Gibson Family who suffered very direct and personal harm in this terribly repugnant chapter in Oberlin College’s history will not live to see their justice finally prevail. One due to old age, and the other due to particularly bad type of cancer.

And that is a real damn shame. Another victimization of those who’ve already been egregiously victimized by Oberlin College’s incredibly unjustified seething hatred that goes all the way to very top.

    Remember, there are many good people in the College in spite of its having a rat-infested Board and administration.

      AlexanderYpsilantis in reply to J.D.Nobody. | October 24, 2019 at 10:33 am

      They’re are only ‘good people’ if they actively go after the Administration that is behind this insult to justice.

        When Khrushchev gave his famous speech denouncing Stalin, somebody in the audience shouted “If he was so bad, why didn’t you get rid of him?” Khrushchev stopped and said, “Who said that?” There was silence in the hall. So he repeated himself, “Who said that?” And there was still silence, and he said, “Well, now you understand why we didn’t do anything.”

      Silvertree in reply to J.D.Nobody. | October 24, 2019 at 10:06 pm

      Will nobody tell me who these good people are, and why they are silent? What sort of threats might they face? Surely there is some backbone there somewhere? After all, we are not in Stalinist Russia! Do they fear physical violence? The power of the mob to destroy their careers? Are there no independent thinkers among the students? Why do College folk of sound mind not band together against this craziness?! Strength may be found in numbers….

      Silvertree in reply to J.D.Nobody. | October 24, 2019 at 10:10 pm

      Will nobody tell me who these good people are, and why they are silent? What sort of threats might they face? Surely there is some backbone there somewhere? After all, we are not in Stalinist Russia! Do they fear physical violence? The power of the mob to destroy their careers? Are there no independent thinkers among the students? Why do College folk of sound mind not band together and speak out against this craziness?! Strength may be found in numbers….

        Silvertree in reply to Silvertree. | October 24, 2019 at 10:19 pm

        And while I am asking big questions tonight (a double for the win!) will nobody tell me WHY this website is constantly crashing?

          The LI website seems to be solid. That is especially impressive considering it was built using WordPress, which is a tangle of spaghetti internally.

          If you are using FireFox it has been rather flaky lately. Until such time as there is evidence to the contrary you are probably doing nothing wrong.

        The good people are most of the people there. The problem is that when there are a few rats in positions of power, everybody knows that if they speak up, they will be fired a few days later for something else.

        Remember, being a student in college is much like being in the armed forces. In both cases, you are at the service of people who have enormous power over your life. If you buck the system, you will pay.

        We are closer to living in a Chinese social credit police state than I want to think.

    you’re right, it is a shame. but, by my count the gibson ‘family’ is going to be around longer than the school.

Oberlin should immediately pay the Gibson’s the minimum judgement ($25 million, plus court and attorney fees?). Then let the appeals for the full amount be decided by the courts and whatever molasses processes are in force.

    Likely not an option. They would probably lose their ability to appeal once they pay the judgment in part. They have accepted the benefit of the judgment (the amount).

I’d love to see a thorough explanation of what lies ahead in this case.

    Tom Servo in reply to RandomCrank. | October 23, 2019 at 4:38 pm

    No one can know that, but I’ll give you my guess – first, this appeal goes to the Ohio Court of Appeals. It will be fought out there, probably take a year or two. I won’t guess who will win, but I do think the original trial judge was very careful, and this will be in Oberlin’s favor. After that decision is made, the losing side has the right to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, who may or may not agree to take the case. After that, if Oberlin is still the loser, they *may* try to take this thing to the Federal Level, although I do not think they will succeed.

    If by some chance they *do* succeed in going federal, well then this case becomes Jarndyce vs Jarndyce.

      Tom Servo in reply to Tom Servo. | October 23, 2019 at 4:39 pm

      yikes! I said Oberlin’s favor, I meant to say that the Trial Judges carefulness will be in Gibson’s favor!

        Silvertree in reply to Tom Servo. | October 24, 2019 at 10:31 pm

        It makes sense, because actually it is the Gibsons who are truly of Oberlin, the small decent town. Oberlin College, on the other hand, has gone off into another world completely. Call it the world of “globalist puppets” who want to destroy every last shred of commonsense and common decency.

    charley in reply to RandomCrank. | October 28, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    Be assured that there will be a large wealth transfer from middle America to the District of Columbia, continuing for years. And remember that the underlying cause emanates from a shoplifting case. Can’t have no shoplifters here nonsense.

We can only hope that Oberlin, its President, its Board, and Deans will receive their desserts–they are a plague on humanity.

    Silvertree in reply to rochf. | October 24, 2019 at 11:00 pm

    Karma is a witch.
    Speaking of witch—
    Oberlin’s Carma got stuck in a ditch.
    Time to call a tow—
    but no…..
    a backhoe.
    The hole widens….
    the plot thickens…..
    slowly sinking
    the College sickens….

      From my perspective, Ambar and Raimondo are re-enacting the Uncle Remus story of Br’er Rabbit and the Tarbaby. The two ladies are Br’er Fox in feminist drag thinking that Br’er Rabbit (the lawyers) will keep swinging at the Gibson tarbaby. Br’er Rabbit will outsmart Br’er Fox and end up in the briar patch with all of Br’er Fox’s money.

      The two ladies should have listened better to their children’s stories.

The only ones getting rich from now on are the lawyers.

May God’s favor rest with the Gibson’s who have done no wrong in this.

Resentment is drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. This seems to be Oberlin’s game plan.

The mindless and needless vendetta against the Gibsons is a moral outrage that I intend to fight because it has become a cesspool of intellectual depravity and a mockery of decency. The college’s new motto, “Think one person can change the world? So do we” will soon be put to the test by Nobody. Nobody plans to be that person because he understands that even in the world of Oberlin College the bigger they come, the harder they fall.

The day is coming when Raimondo et al. and the college’s derelict Board of Trustees will be able to say Nobody told us!

/s/ JD Nobody, OC ’61.

Oberlin College’s persistence in resisting paying compensation to the Gibson’s is so typically LIEberal for a college today. Academia has become a racist, sexist homophile, Socialist, Communist, anti-American cesspool aimed more at indoctrination than education. Defending the actions of Oberlin student shoplifters merely because they’re “Minorities” is disgraceful in the extreme. If Oberlin continues delaying the verdict using legal wrangling, they need to be brought to heel; either by the courts, the alumni or the community.

    AlexanderYpsilantis in reply to oldscribe. | October 24, 2019 at 10:37 am

    Too many Oberlin Alumni are getting tainted by ‘guilt by association’ with the College. It is on THEM to go after the Board of Trustees and INSIST the College leadership be fired.

    What about the college’s demand to take over the jurisdiction in student shoplifting cases? Isn’t bypassing the legal system the very definition of vigilante justice? BTW, the Oberlin Muni Court prosecutor and Gibsons have a long track record of working together well and minimizing the damage to all parties.

So yesterday I decided to take one for the team and attend the “One Oberlin” tour in PDX. And coincidentally, I happened to be wearing my Gibsons Bakery T-shirt. What are the odds?

Anyhoo, it was mostly a “we need money to do good things” presentation by Twillie and a couple of minor Deans.

Some things of note from memory. Near the beginning she glossed over what she called “the litigation.” I do not believe that she said Gibsons at all, just, the litigation. She made it out to be “no biggie,” just something that will take time to work through. I guess it is standard practice to dehumanize the enemy, but given that most alumni likely have a better regard for Gibsons than the college, that could backfire like everything else. A number of people were surprised to learn that T-shirts and bakery goods could be ordered on-line.

I found it ironic that Twillie used two aviation terms in her presentation, one was dealing with the dot, which refers to identifying the landing zone and taking action while it is still just a dot. Not apparently what they did with Gibsons. The second reference was to a runway, not itself significant, but it did get me to thinking that use of those terms and concepts would go hand in hand with knowing about the death spiral, and why was Oberlin not yet aware that they were in it.

I had other pressing matters so could only stay for an hour, but I did talk with about 15 different alumni that I knew and had at previous events. One, dressed in Obie swag, told me that I had incredible chutzpah for my wardrobe choice. To the others, I thought that the Gibsons deserved a presence in any discussions about Oberlin’s future. FWIW, I would say that about 2/3 of them voiced that they were uncomfortable with the whole incident, and that the disapproval seemed to be positively correlated with age. I simply said that they should really look at the trial trnscripts to get a better understanding of both how bad it was and that it really has nothing to do with student free speech or the first amendment, as was being spun by the college. Twillie of course, encouraged everyone to visit the college website on the matter, because we here know exactly how (NOT) accurate that is.

I did not interact with Twillie, but she was aware that a Gibsons T-shirt was in the audience. I told several people that I was messing up people’s calendars because seeing me in the T-shirt made them think it was still Wednesday.

Oh, she also pulled out the “we must support our alma mater like they are family” card. Had I chosen to stay and lose another hour of my life that I will never get back, I would have chosen to address that statement with the concept of tough love, and how in some circumstances the best course of action is to cut off a loved one before they bleed us dry. That is where Oberlin stands with me at the moment.

Oh, she also showed a slide with a $923M endowment and $40M in unrestricted funds. Not sure if this was to emphasize that there were limits to how much could be used to fix short term problems, or to get it out there that an upper limit was set how much could go the Gibsons way.

    Thanks for reporting on this. Pres. Ambar’s presentation must have been that of a trial lawyer without a courtroom, believing that she had an ignorant jury for her audience. It is quite revealing that she would choose to make a presentation fit for a trial lawyer with a guilty client rather than honestly tell the whole story and what she planned to do to fix things.

    I also plan to attend one of her traveling dog and pony shows soon.