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Appeals Court Upholds Gibson’s Bakery Massive Verdict Against Oberlin College

Appeals Court Upholds Gibson’s Bakery Massive Verdict Against Oberlin College

“The Gibson family appreciates the Court of Appeals’ thorough and thoughtful analysis which rightly rejected all of Oberlin College’s and Dean Raimondo’s challenges on appeal.”

The Ohio 9th District Court of Appeals has just issued a decision in the Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College case.

For those of you new to the case, Gibson’s Bakery was a 5th generation family business in Oberlin, Ohio, near the Oberlin College campus. It served baked goods to the public and also to the student dining service, as well as operating a general convenience store. As with many other small businesses, student shoplifting was epidemic, as we covered, Student journalist: Shoplifting at Gibson’s Bakery was part of Oberlin College’s “Culture of Theft”

A store clerk, a member of the Gibson family, caught an Oberlin black student shoplifting, a scuffle ensued that was joined by two other Oberlin black students. When the police arrived, they arrested the students who eventually pleaded guilty. But before that, the college officials and students accused the bakery of racial profiling, called a boycott, suspended Gibson’s business with the college, and organized protests outside the bakery.

At the protests, a flyer was handed out, according to witnesses who testified at trial, by Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo, who also handed out stacks of flyers for others to distribute. The flyers accused the Gibsons of a long history of racial profiling, including in the incident with these shoplifters. The Gibsons disputed that allegation and that they did anything wrong in this incident, and requested a public apology from the college in order to repair the reputational damage, but the college refused. (To this day it never has apologized.)

[Photo credit: Daniel McGraw for Legal Insurrection Foundation]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw2Sk_JTaXA

[Protest outside Gibson’s Bakery, November 2016]

Based on the actions of college officials in conveying and promoting the defamatory accusations, a lawsuit was filed, resulting in massive verdicts for the owners of the bakery, David Gibson and his father, Allyn Gibson. Legal Insurrection was the only national media outlet to have someone in the courtroom reporting, including when the verdicts came down:

[Lee Plakas greets Allyn W. Gibson after punitive damages verdict][Photo credit Bob Perkoski for Legal Insurrection Foundation]

[David Gibson hugs grandson after punitive damages verdict][Photo credit Bob Perkoski for Legal Insurrection Foundation]

On November 10, 2020, the Court heard oral argument on (1) the appeal by Oberlin College and Dean of Students Meredith Raimando seeking to overturn the compensatory and punitive damage awards totalling, after reduction under Ohio tort reform law, $25 million, plus over $6 million in attorney’s fees, bringing the judgment to over $32 million, and (2) the cross-appeal by Gibson’s Bakery and two members of the Gibson family (including the widow of the late David Gibson) seeking to restore the full $33 million punitive damages award, arguing the tort reform reduction was unconstitutional, which would add back about $15 million to the judgment.

One of the Judges who sat on oral argument, Julie Shafer, was not reelected on November 3, 2020, and was replaced by Judge Betty Sutton, who joined Judges Jennifer Hensal and Donna Carr.

A decision was just issued, written by Justice Carr:

{¶1} Appellants, Oberlin College and its Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo (collectively “Oberlin” or individually “the college” or “Raimondo”), appeal from a judgment of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas that entered judgment against them and awarded compensatory and punitive damages to Gibson Brothers, Inc., Allyn W. Gibson, and David R. Gibson1 (collectively “the Gibsons”). The Gibsons cross-appealed the trial court’s reduction of damages that the jury had originally awarded them. This Court affirms.

* * *

{¶133} Oberlin’s assignments of error are overruled. The Gibsons’ sole assignment of error in their cross-appeal is overruled. The judgment of the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas is affirmed.

As satisfying as this must be to the Gibson family, it also must be bittersweet because the two lead plaintiffs and the patriarchs of the family did not live to see the appeals court verdict:

[David Gibson and Allyn W. Gibson at trial][Photo credit Bob Perkoski for Legal Insurrection Foundation]

At least they were around to see the jury verdict.

But as David Gibson revealed when he announced his cancer diagnosis after the verdict, Oberlin College dragged out the case knowing David was terminally ill.

(if video does not load, click here)

MORE TO FOLLOW

Owen Rarric, co-counsel for the Gibsons, provided the following statement:

“The Gibson family appreciates the Court of Appeals’ thorough and thoughtful analysis which rightly rejected all of Oberlin College’s and Dean Raimondo’s challenges on appeal.”

I sent a request to the college seeking comment. If I receive a response, I will add it.

(added) Oberlin Director of Media Relations Scott Wargo provided the following statement on behalf of the college:

Oberlin is obviously disappointed that the appeals court affirmed the judgment in its ruling earlier today. We are reviewing the Court’s opinion carefully as we evaluate our options and determine next steps.

In the meantime, we recognize that the issues raised by this case have been challenging, not only for the parties involved in the lawsuit, but for the entire Oberlin community. We remain committed to strengthening the partnership between the College, the City of Oberlin and its residents, and the downtown business community.  We will continue in that important work while remaining focused on our core educational mission.

Appeal to Ohio Supreme Court?

My understanding, which admittedly is limited, is that while there is an appeal avenue to the Ohio Supreme Court, it is discretionary whether the court accepts the case (much like the U.S. Supreme Court accepts only a small percentate of cases). The court only accepts civil “cases of public or great general interest.” Assuming that is the standard, this case would seem to fit, but the legal issues are not particularly novel or applicable to a large number of cases, and the case is very fact specific. So while the case has a lot of media attention, that does not mean it will be accepted. I would be shocked if the college does not at least try to get the Ohio Supreme Court to take it.

Key Excerpts From The Decision

Here are some key excerpts from the Decision. First, the court rejected the deceptive attempt of Oberlin supported by the NAACP, and media entities and law professors to turn this into a free speech case. As I pointed out many times, the student protest had zero to do with case other than as a backdrop against which the college and its senior administrator defamed the Gibsons.

Oberlin’s legal strategy mirrored its public relations strategy, in which it dishonestly claimed it was held liable for student speech, In NPR interview, Oberlin College President repeats false claim it was “held liable for the speech of its students”.

The court saw through this diversion:

{¶3} This Court recognizes that this case has garnered significant local and national media attention. The primary focus of the media coverage, and the several amicus briefs filed in this case, has been on an individual’s First Amendment right to protest and voice opinions in opposition to events occurring around them locally, nationally, and globally. This Court must emphasize, however, that the sole focus of this appeal is on the separate conduct of Oberlin and Raimondo that allegedly caused damage to the Gibsons, not on the First Amendment rights of individuals to voice opinions or protest.

{¶4} When this case went to trial, the student protests were not a subject of this defamation case, but merely provided a background for how other, potentially defamatory speech arose and was disseminated. Moreover, as will be explained in much greater detail in this opinion, prior to allowing the jury to consider whether any written statements were actionable, the statements were reviewed by the trial court (and will be again by this Court on appeal) under modern defamation law, which explicitly protects First Amendment free speech.

* * *

{¶25} Oberlin has asserted throughout this case, as have several organizations through amicus briefs on appeal, that any liability for defamation in this case could have a chilling effect on students’ rights to free speech at colleges and universities across the country. This Court must emphasize, however, that Oberlin was granted summary judgment on the Gibsons’ claims based on the verbal protests by Oberlin students. The trial court agreed that the student chants and verbal protests about the Gibsons being racists were protected by the First Amendment and, therefore, were not actionable in this case. By the time of trial, the Gibsons’ libel claim focused solely on whether Oberlin had disseminated false, written statements of fact that caused the Gibsons significant harm.

The court then turned to the alleged defamatory statements by the college and Raimondo, starting with the flyer handed out by Raimondo and at her direction (according to witnesses) by others, and a student Senate resolution displayed in a college glass case and not removed by  college. The court found that each document made defamatory statements of face and were published by the college:

{¶28} The flyer was a two-sided page. The front page of the flyer began with a large font, bold-faced “DON’T BUY” printed inside a template of an eight-point star, and included other pleas that people boycott the bakery and shop elsewhere. The back page of the flyer listed other local retailers for the students to find specific items.

[Flyer handed out by protesters outside Gibson’s Bakery]

{¶30} The Senate Resolution was passed by the student senate on November 10, 2016. It urged students to cease all support of the bakery, and called upon the faculty and administration of the college to “condemn * * * the treatment of students of color by Gibson’s Food Market and Bakery[.]” Rather than quoting the resolution in its entirety, this Court will summarize and quote the most relevant portions at issue here. The resolution begins by acknowledging and condemning hatred and bigotry as well as all acts of violence. It then details “a few key facts” about the Gibsons’ incident because “we find it important to share” them with the Oberlin Community:

A Black student was chased and assaulted at Gibson’s after being accused of stealing. Several other students, attempting to prevent the assaulted student from receiving further injury, were arrested and held by the Oberlin Police Department. In the midst of all this, Gibson’s employees were never detained and were given preferential treatment by police officers. Gibson’s has a history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment of students and residents alike. * * * .

{¶31} Oberlin has argued that the flyer and Senate Resolution contained only opinions, but it has focused its arguments throughout this case on statements alleging merely that the Gibsons {¶31} Oberlin has argued that the flyer and Senate Resolution contained only opinions, but it has focused its arguments throughout this case on statements alleging merely that the Gibsons were racists. Despite Oberlin’s arguments to the contrary, the potentially libelous statements in this case include much more than calling the Gibsons “racists.”

{¶32} The trial court determined, as a matter of law, that both the flyer and the Senate Resolution were not statements of constitutionally protected opinion but were defamatory per se. The trial court focused on the statements about the Gibsons and their bakery having a history of racial profiling and discrimination toward students and residents and the statements about an “assault[]” of a student by an owner or owners of the bakery.

* * *

{¶37} Given the public’s lack of knowledge of what had happened at the bakery and the ongoing tension on campus about racial injustice, these statements would convey to a reasonable reader that the arrest and alleged assault at the bakery were racially motivated, that the Gibsons had a verifiable history of racially profiling shoplifters on that basis for years, and that those facts were a reason to boycott the bakery. The trial court did not err in concluding, as a matter of law, that these were actionable statements of fact, not constitutionally protected opinion. Consequently, it did not err in denying Oberlin’s motion for JNOV on this basis.

* * *

{¶49} Construing the totality of this evidence in favor of the Gibsons, a reasonable person could conclude that Oberlin took actions to directly publish and/or assist in publishing the flyer. Therefore, the trial court properly denied JNOV as to the publication of the flyer.

* * *

{¶52} This evidence about Oberlin affirmatively providing the student senate with various types of outward assistance could support a jury conclusion that Oberlin facilitated the initial publication of the Senate Resolution. But for Oberlin providing the student senate with the means and authority to create and send the Senate Resolution to the entire student body via email and post it in a prominent display case in the student union to be seen by current and potential students, the Senate Resolution could not have been published in the manner it was in this case. See Cooke, 2003-Ohio-3118, at ¶ 25 (affirmative acts of aiding and abetting are sufficient to establish publication).

{¶53} The Gibsons also argued throughout the trial that Raimondo or the college should have stopped the publication of the Senate Resolution by removing the resolution from the display case, sending a message to the student body, and/or otherwise calling upon the student senate to retract and/or correct their defamatory statements. Oberlin responded throughout these proceedings that it had no obligation to remove the resolution from the display case or to take corrective actions regarding it.

{¶54} Oberlin cited no legal authority to support that argument, however, nor did it present evidence at trial that it lacked the ability to take corrective actions. On the other hand, there is authority to support the Gibsons’ position on this issue. In addressing similar issues, the Tenth District determined that a defendant could be held liable for not removing defamatory signs posted on her property.

The court went on to uphold the jury findings in Tortious Interference with the bakery’s contract with the indepenent food service company as well as Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.

The court also ruled in favor of the Gibson’s on one of the thorniest issues in the case. Oberlin College executed its right to bifurcate the trial between compensatory and punitive damages, so no punitive damage evidence could be presented until after the compensatory verdict. During the compensatory phase, the jury found that Oberlin had not acted with “actual malice,” but that did not affect the jury verdict because the Gibsons were private figures and only needed to prove negligence. But on the punitive phase — after more evidence was presented — the jury found actual malice. The college claimed that was error to give the jury a second bite, but that obviously made no sense because it was the bifurcation at the college’s request that prevented the Gibsons from presenting all their evidence of actual malice in the compensatory phase. The Court agreed:

{¶87} On the other hand, if Oberlin had not requested bifurcation, the Gibsons could have put on their entire case at the liability stage of the trial with evidence presented of both compensatory and punitive damages. Without Oberlin’s request for bifurcation, the jury would not have had to look at actual malice for liability and then again for punitive damages.

{¶88} Because Oberlin did request bifurcation, however, after compensatory damages were awarded by the jury, the Gibsons were entitled to proceed to the second stage of trial and put on any evidence they had pertaining to punitive damages for each of their claims: defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with business relationship. The Gibsons cannot be punished for Oberlin’s choice to bifurcate.

The rest of the decision addresses the college’s claim that damages were excessive, and the Gibson’s claim that the punitive damage caps which resulted in a reduction of the verdict were unconstitutional.

(This post has been updated repeatedly.)

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

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Comments

That’s the best news I’ve heard in quite awhile. It’s enought to tide me over and feel good for the rest of the day.

    JohnSmith100 in reply to Peabody. | April 1, 2022 at 8:30 pm

    This pleases me to no end. Oberlin College is full of administrative scum. The pain they inflicted on the Gibson’s was horrible.

    The case reminds me of Research in Motion, who tried to steal Thomas Campana Jr’s inventions, he also died without knowing if his family would be taken care of. They knew he was terminal. And the award of over 600 million was gratifying.

    Organizations manage to rationalize doing terrible things to people, there is something strange about how they can collectively rationalize such awful conduct. It seems to me our whole academic system has been corrupted. I question rather it can be salvaged,

healthguyfsu | March 31, 2022 at 4:42 pm

And the interest has been accruing since the initial judgment!

    MajorWood in reply to healthguyfsu. | March 31, 2022 at 11:09 pm

    IIRC the interest on the reduced amount was $4500 a day and on the full amount that the Gibsons wanted reinstated was $6300.

Wow, this is huge. And very welcome, since I, and I think many of us, had assumed the long delay meant the court was looking for some way to rule for Oberlin.

I suppose it’s a pity the Gibsons’ bid for the full $33M was also rejected, but really that is the state law, so I’m not too sorry for them. They’ll have to suffice with (if I recall correctly) $25M plus costs and interest.

I don’t understand why students still go to Oberlin. Then again I have never understood why, in the aftermath of the Duke Lacrosse incident, Duke remains with even one male student enrolled.

    OwenKellogg-Engineer in reply to Milhouse. | March 31, 2022 at 5:49 pm

    Did I misunderstand the Courts affirming of Gibson’s cross appeal (2):

    “The Gibsons cross-appealed the trial court’s reduction of
    damages that the jury had originally awarded them. This Court affirms.”

    What did the court affirm?

    JHogan in reply to Milhouse. | March 31, 2022 at 6:41 pm

    “I don’t understand why students still go to Oberlin.”

    It’s a top tier vocational training school for Marxists.

      DaveGinOly in reply to JHogan. | April 2, 2022 at 12:05 am

      Yep. They (and their parents) know the college’s reputation, and approve. Oberlin provides the type of (mis)education that they seek.

Richard Aubrey | March 31, 2022 at 4:59 pm

Oberlin’s arrogance, while not a legal issue, made this sweeter.
The culture, day-to-day, and the hiring were Oberlin’s call. That their employees did this should not have been a surprise.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Richard Aubrey. | April 2, 2022 at 12:08 am

    Their refusal to issue a simple apology cost them millions. The legal process turned the refusal into an “own goal.” Well played, Oberlin. Well played. Haha!

      diver64 in reply to DaveGinOly. | April 2, 2022 at 5:21 am

      Maybe Oberlin’s council instructed them not to apologize because that would acknowledge guilt and open them to a lawsuit thinking the national attention would shut Gibsons up. Unfortunately for Oberlin, they ran up against people that couldn’t be bullied and got one anyways

9thDistrictNeighbor | March 31, 2022 at 5:09 pm

Wonderful news! Gives me some hope, as well.

Congratulations to the Gibsons. They did something very difficult, expensive and uncertain. Most would not have tried.

A great American business and family.

It really was just bad luck that they were located too close to Mordor.

Good. The right thing happens, for once.

I believe the patriarch of the family (perhaps the man pictured in the middle?) passed away in 2019 or early 2020. It’s quite sad he couldn’t see the end of this case. I had read that the future of the bakery was uncertain. But, it looks like it’s still open and it appears they plan on staying that way. Their continued success would be deserved outcome in the face of Oberlin’s arrogance and misbehavior.

Oberlin is weighing their options? Is there any further appeals they could file? I found their statement odd. I’d appreciate further analysis, especially as too denying the Gibson’s cross-appeal.

    JHogan in reply to RobM. | March 31, 2022 at 6:42 pm

    Can Brandon pardon them?

      SuddenlyHappyToBeHere in reply to JHogan. | March 31, 2022 at 8:18 pm

      He cannot. It was a civil case so nothing o pardon. It is also a state court judgment not federal

    Olinser in reply to RobM. | March 31, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    That’s the kind of corporate bullshit that they feed out to the masses so they never admit that they were wrong.

    They’re not ‘giving up’. They’re ‘weighing their options’, and then I’m sure they’ll put out some bullshit PR statement about what an injustice this is blah blah bullshit bullshit, and that the system is broken and it’s no longer worth it to try and pursue justice in a broken system blah blah racism racism social justice bullshit blah.

Thank you for covering this from beginning to end, Mr. Jacobson.

Great news. Made my day.

And that hasn’t happened very often lately.

EricRasmusen | March 31, 2022 at 6:52 pm

It sounds like Rule 11 ought to have been applied to the filers of the amicus briefs, if indeed they were about an obviously irrelevant issue.

Have amici ever been hit with Rule 11? They often should.

Good.

Many comments here; Why attend Oberless College? Oberless is one of the best sources for Starbucks when they hire over educated surly baristas.

I hope the Gibson family will finally rest easy tonight.
God bless them.

Good for the Gibsons
They have been put through help for no reason
None at all

    JohnSmith100 in reply to gonzotx. | April 1, 2022 at 9:53 pm

    For progressive and black ego. I hope that the Gibson’s use some of that money to make Oberlin miserable. There needs to be scalps taken,

I want to see the college closed

Correct me if I remember incorrectly- but didn’t Oberlin have to file a bond in the amount of damages before appeal? In order to prevent them from playing financial games and make the money disappear?

If so- who determines when the bond is released? Shouldn’t it be immediate on judgement?

    randian in reply to gospace. | March 31, 2022 at 9:24 pm

    Shouldn’t it be immediate on judgement?

    My understanding is that since the judgement is not yet final (all appeals having been rejected or abandoned) the bond won’t be released.

The Gentle Grizzly | March 31, 2022 at 9:14 pm

I am pleased.

Prof. Jacobson’s comment is disquieting, “I would be shocked if the college does not at least try to get the Ohio Supreme Court to take it..”

Not a lawyer … If taken, does it get tougher to overturn a judgment, the higher the court you go? Also, what is the political makeup of that court? Might the Professor’s view reflect the relatively low cost (versus the judgment) of trying to get the higher court to take it and, perhaps, if successful, getting some leverage in negotiating a somewhat lower settlement?

    Tom Servo in reply to jb4. | April 1, 2022 at 12:02 am

    yes, it gets exponentially more difficult to overturn as a case goes up the chain. In very general terms, the various levels of a appeals court have to decide that the lower court made an Error of Law in the original trial. In the Oberlin case discussed, not only did they lose the jury trial, but now an appeals court has looked at it and said there were No errors of law made by the original Judge. So any higher court would have to rule that *everyone* in the legal system who’s examined this case up until now has been wrong – not likely.

    I think it’s much more likely that Ohio’s Supreme Court simply refuses to consider the appeal, which is what happens in the majority of cases sent to them. (true for all Supreme Courts, the US Supreme Court each year only accepts about 100 cases out of 10,000 or so that they’re asked to hear each year)

    Another Voice in reply to jb4. | April 1, 2022 at 4:03 pm

    Prof. J. proposed this as a possibility and I believe that is based on the cynical aspect of Oberlin by nature of it’s far left progressive make-up can do no wrong, even in this case of projected court findings against them. There is no quit for them in their moral high road to always being in the right and see it only as “having been wronged”..

      MajorWood in reply to Another Voice. | April 2, 2022 at 12:48 pm

      A local friend told me about the events shortly after the 2016 election, and i discovered LI as the place which was covering it. I know these people. I know that they simply cannot ever admit that they are wrong. If you took the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and replaced “alcoholic” with “academic,” it would describe them to a T. Godless arrogant fools, all of them. Out of all the faculty, only two, both emeriti, have come out to criticize the college and its actions here. They make the old school Soviets look weak and disorganized. They were literally drunk with power in their little isolated bubble, and the fact that they are willing to continue doubling down despite all the evidence to the contrary, suggests that they ave drifted from political orientation into mental illness. If they are so in the right, then why are they hiding it from the alumni? They should be proud for standing up to “whitey.”

      I suspect that down the road the opposite will prove true. I see Oberlin as drifting into the land of the ignored, because they only brought attention to the tactics of the left, and they failed at their task of using white guilt to get what they wanted.

      I am currently watching “The Death of Stalin,” and I say currently because I am only good for about 15 minutes of viewing before my sides hurt from laughter. I am always shocked when one of these gems somehow slips out of Hollyweird. Part of me wonders how accurately this movie also reflects the thinking patterns of most college administrations.

    DaveGinOly in reply to jb4. | April 2, 2022 at 12:16 am

    On the grounds that it’s less costly to settle than to risk a trial, many respondents bail out and pay up. But when you’re staring a certain huge loss in the face, there’s little incentive to give up the fight. The extra investment is minor compared to the amount of money (that at this stage you know) you could save.

    Who knows, maybe Oberlin got bad legal advice from the start.
    “Sure, we can beat this on 1st Amendment grounds, no problemo. We should go to trial.”

      MajorWood in reply to DaveGinOly. | April 2, 2022 at 12:52 pm

      There was no bad legal advice. They are the source of all their problems, believeing that they are in the right, with absolutely no possibility that they could be wrong. If there is a problem, it is those effin conservatives, period. Shut up! Because Trump! … Humility is a non-entity in Oberlin.

Wonderful to see. Never capitulate to the woke fascists of cancel culture. Always push back. Always ignore them, mock them, and make them feel as worthless and unloved as they are. The war is right now.

So, Oberlin continues to piss away $30,000 a week on interest on the judgement. I need to dig through old files for the numbers, but off the top of my head they are in it for $25M (judgement) + $6M (interest to date) + Gibson legal fees $6-8M (est) + $10M their legal fees (est for trial and appeal) + $3M bond fees (est). So lets say it cost the college about $50M because some twat couldn’t admit they were wrong and say that they were sorry. I guess there is a price on arrogance.

I wonder where Raimondo landed and whether she has caused as much damage there.

      A win-win match made in heaven. Colorblind Atlanta is a perfect fit for Raimondo, she’ll probably be a feted celebrity there. In addition, the university’s search committee will be congratulated for the outstanding hire.

    Roguewave1 in reply to MajorWood. | April 1, 2022 at 1:44 am

    How does the bond process work? If there is a fee for some bond company ($3M estimated above), who is out the principal if forfeiture is actuated? The question is: is the school ultimately at risk for the full judgement?

      BabyM in reply to Roguewave1. | April 1, 2022 at 11:19 am

      Yes. The bonding company has a right of subrogation, which allows it to recover the payout from the College.

      jakebizlaw in reply to Roguewave1. | April 1, 2022 at 8:06 pm

      Almost certainly the bond is collateralized by the college endowment.

        MajorWood in reply to jakebizlaw. | April 2, 2022 at 12:29 pm

        The bonding company is a huge multinational enterprise and to them Oberlin is no more than a gnat. They WILL collect!

        That being said, I have always held a suspicion that Oberlin is being fronted by some wealthy socialist (oxymoron) who will make good on whatever they have to payout. That being said, I suspect that the “hypothetical” offer to cover their costs was likely made back when they were thinking that the max cost might be $1M total, including legal costs. But when it suddenly shot to the $30-40M region, there might have been some second thoughts as to how far the backroom financers were willing to go, thus now maybe leaving Oberlin on a hook that they didn’t anticipate. regardless of the outcome, Oberlin will never be able to justify spending about $10M on lawfare to crush the Gibsons, who are actually held to a higher standing by my alumni peers than the college itself.

    Olinser in reply to MajorWood. | April 1, 2022 at 2:09 am

    This case is a fantastic demonstration of the old lawyer knowledge that every large business or corporation needs two SEPARATE legal teams. One to advise them on legal matters on a daily basis, and a DIFFERENT team to defend them in court.

    Because what ends up happening, as it appears to have happened here, is that the legal team is more interested in justifying their earlier (potentially very poor) legal advice in court than in furthering the best interests of the company/business that they are representing.

    Why would the lawyers care if the college loses more money? They get paid significantly more for filing useless appeals than they do giving the college the hard truth that it’s time to shut the fuck up and pay.

Good news. Now for the bad news:

Congress Confirms Biden Pick With History Of Trump-Nazi Comparisons For Anti-Semitism Envoy:

https://dailycaller.com/2022/03/31/deborah-lipstadt-trump-comparisons-anti-semitism/

Steven Brizel | April 1, 2022 at 8:30 am

This decision is great news,. Does anyone know what review is available for a potential appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court? See here https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/SCO/jurisdiction/and more particularly:

“The Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Ohio. Most of its cases are appeals from the 12 district courts of appeals. The Court may grant leave to appeal felony cases from the courts of appeals and may direct a court of appeals to certify its record in any civil or misdemeanor case that the Court finds to be “of public or great general interest.”

The Supreme Court also has appellate jurisdiction in cases involving questions arising under the Ohio or United States Constitutions, cases originating in the courts of appeals, and cases in which there have been conflicting opinions on the same question from two or more courts of appeals. The Supreme Court hears all cases in which the death penalty has been imposed. These cases currently include both appeals from courts of appeals affirming imposition of the death penalty by a trial court and, for capital crimes committed on or after Jan. 1, 1995, appeals taken directly from the trial courts. Finally, the Supreme Court’s appellate jurisdiction extends to review of the actions of certain administrative agencies, including the Public Utilities Commission.’

I suspect that Oberlin having utilized the scorched earth defense doctrine of: millions for defense and not a cent for a tribute” will seek review in the Supreme Court ofOhio on the grounds that this case is one of “..public or great general interest.”

Does anyone know anything about the composition of the Supreme Court of Ohio and how infrequently or often it grants leave to appeal in civil cases?

    My first job out of law school was as a judicial clerk at the Supreme Court of Ohio. As best I remember, the Court takes in about 10% of the discretionary appeal cases for a hearing on the merits. This case *might* be more likely than average to be taken in, just based on the subject matter and the amount of media attention it’s gotten.

    It’s possible, if both parties appeal to the Supreme Court, that only one side’s appeal gets heard. I could picture the court taking in the Gibsons’ appeal on the constitutionality of tort reform because that’s a legal question of public and great general interest, while also deciding to turn down Oberlin’s appeal because it concerns only the particular facts of a particular case. The Court is particularly unlikely to take in cases that deal with weight and sufficiency of evidence.

    Of course, this is all speculation on my part based on experience a few decades old, so make of it what you will.

Great coverage of this case, Professor.
This is why I read this blog every day and financially support it as well.

It sure is a good feeling when BOTH sides get what they actually DESERVE !!

Steven Brizel | April 1, 2022 at 8:40 am

The court;s opinion described Oberlin as having litigated this case very aggressively with long multiday depositions, , 17 ,motions and 16 motions in limine. That is what is called in litigation a scorched earth defense which is intended to wear out an adversary

Best news I’ve read in a while and a great way to start the weekend.

Is there any indication that Oberlin College is prepared to do the sensible thing at last and try to work things out with its neighbor? The spectacle of a rich, powerful institution pursuing a brutal “scorched earth” litigation strategy against a family business is a terrible example for Oberlin students.

    jb4 in reply to cato. | April 1, 2022 at 3:38 pm

    Might Oberlin students consider a scorched earth litigation strategy a commendable example of “cancel culture”?

I’m so happy to see this, but I fully anticipate Oberlin to appeal to the Ohio Supreme court, and then the federal courts, and try to tie this up for years–they simply cannot accept that they were wrong, based on the law. I think it will still be years before the Gibsons see a penny, because I have yet to see a liberal admit they’re wrong, when, in fact, they’re wrong, or when a court has told them they’re wrong.

    Milhouse in reply to rochf. | April 1, 2022 at 9:57 am

    I don’t see how they could take it to the federal courts. What’ll they do, move the college to another state and claim diversity?!

      Steven Brizel in reply to Milhouse. | April 1, 2022 at 3:13 pm

      If Oberlin somehow crafted an argument around the boycott and demonstrations at Oberlin as protected speech under the First Amendment, there could be grounds for appealing and or at least trying to seek certiorari to the SCOTUS .It remains to be seen whether any further appeals will go any further

        Milhouse in reply to Steven Brizel. | April 3, 2022 at 1:00 am

        I don’t see it. The boycott and demonstrations were certainly protected speech, but the case wasn’t about them. If they’d stuck to those, and to expressing opinions and abuse, there would have been no case. The case was strictly about the false factual statements they made, and those are clearly not protected.

Congratulations to the Gibson family on their victory against Oberlin College. Although doubtful, others who so eagerly throw around the word “racist” and harm their victims, ought to take notice such hateful rhetoric sometimes has significant financial consequences for the offenders. ONe win, thousands more to go.

    Milhouse in reply to Photoman42. | April 1, 2022 at 10:03 am

    Oh, no, throwing “racist” around indiscriminately is perfectly safe. Had Oblerlin confined itself to that there would have been no case. They’re in this pickle because they went beyond mere opinions and abuse, and made solid factual statements about Gibson’s, which were not true, and which they had good reason to know were not true (which became relevant at the penalty phase).

    So the lesson for other “anti-racists” is never to make specific accusations. Just call your victims “racist” but never say why they’re racist, except with more abuse and opinion. The moment you start in on verifiable facts you’re in trouble (unless they’re true, of course).

      Peabody in reply to Milhouse. | April 1, 2022 at 11:49 am

      Speak in generalities like Kamala Harris.

      Danny in reply to Milhouse. | April 1, 2022 at 12:21 pm

      Without making verifiable claims you can’t claim someone is a racist https://www.britannica.com/topic/racism

      The line between opinion and fact is always a very difficult one to establish.

      However the legislature does have a role in determining that line.

        n.n in reply to Danny. | April 1, 2022 at 8:02 pm

        Jew privilege from a century earlier… White privilege, today. That said, there was a successful lawsuit brought by People of Yellow, challenging Diversity, Inequity, and Exclusion policies, specifically affirmative discrimination, under the established Pro-Choice “ethical” religion.

        Milhouse in reply to Danny. | April 3, 2022 at 1:12 am

        Without making verifiable claims you can’t claim someone is a racist https://www.britannica.com/topic/racism

        Sure you can. People do it literally all the time.

        I have no idea how you think the Britannica article supports your claim.

        The line between opinion and fact is always a very difficult one to establish.

        However the legislature does have a role in determining that line.

        No, it is not at all difficult. It’s a basic task that courts engage in routinely. And no, the legislature has no role whatsoever in determining that or any other such line. Determining such lines is inherently a judicial function, and the courts will not brook any interference from the legislature.

        Apparently you remain stuck in your delusion that it is possible to be found liable for calling someone a communist. You are wrong. Whether someone is a communist (i.e. an adherent of communism, rather than a dues-paying member of some specific communist organization) is inherently a matter of opinion and therefore can’t be defamatory. And the same is true with calling someone a racist.

    Roguewave1 in reply to Photoman42. | April 1, 2022 at 12:14 pm

    If you are the plaintiff, it is not a victory until you get paid. Money is how we keep score.

This is wonderful news.
But I wonder why Gibson’s did not also sue Dean Raimondo as an individual.

    Olinser in reply to pst314. | April 2, 2022 at 3:20 am

    I believe they DID try to, and that part of the legal mumbo jumbo leading up to the trial was to establish that everything she did was in capacity as a representative of Oberlin, so Oberlin was on the hook for any judgement against her because of her employment contract.

The exposition in the article would indicate she was a named defendant —
“On November 10, 2020, the Court heard oral argument on (1) the appeal byOberlin College and Dean of Students Meredith Raimando seeking to overturn the compensatory and punitive damage awards…”

    pst314 in reply to Roguewave1. | April 1, 2022 at 12:16 pm

    The exposition in the article would indicate she was a named defendant

    Yes, but I get the impression that she was not sued separately as an individual, and thus the judgement was only against the College as an institution. If I am wrong, then I do not recall reading anything to the contrary at Legal Insurrection or Instapundit and would like to see a link.

      silverpie in reply to pst314. | April 1, 2022 at 2:25 pm

      From the story on the original verdict: “Meredith Raimondo was held liable on the libel and interference with business relations, but not intentional infliction of emotional distress. By stipulation, the college is responsible for any amounts awarded against her, so she will not pay anything out of pocket.”

      So she was sued individually, but the school agreed to pay any award against her (guessing this was a term of her employment contract).

This result was a long time coming for the Gibson family. Oberlin’s administrators could have settled the matter before being sued, but, their Leftist arrogance prevented such common sense and rational behavior.

    BlindJustice in reply to guyjones. | April 1, 2022 at 3:44 pm

    I’m pretty sure Oberlin offered a 7-figure settlement early on in the case. While I sympathize with the Gibson family, I am aghast at the amount of the damages awarded, even after they were reduced per the Ohio cap. The Gibsons turned a shoplifting/defamation incident into a lottery ticket. This is why our legal system is so detested. Tort lawyers run amok.

      MajorWood in reply to BlindJustice. | April 1, 2022 at 8:21 pm

      Again, Ineed to dig back into my notes, but I believe that Oberlin offered something around $4M while the jury was out. At that point, it probably would not have even covered the hourly charges by the Gibson’s law firm. Their behavior throughout has been no less than despicable, and more and more alumni are not amused. I would like to see Koeppel do a followup with Twillie.. If it is all about perceptions, then my perception is that Oberlin totally screwed themselves at every opportunity.

      Olinser in reply to BlindJustice. | April 2, 2022 at 3:32 am

      Screw off.

      This wasn’t a simple ‘shoplifting/defamation incident’, and it sure as hell wasn’t ‘tort lawyers run amok’.

      This was a PERSISTENT and sustained targeting by Oberlin with the intention of destroying their business. Outside the initial incident and blatant defamation, their cancelling of their long-standing contract with Gibsons, their support of further defamation by the student body, the college went even further by forcing an independent contractor to cancel their contract with Gibson’s under threat of their own contract being terminated, this went FAR beyond a ‘shoplifting/defamation’ incident.

      The jury determined that the ACTUAL damages, as in the explicit, verifiable damage to their business, as a result of the lost business and inappropriately terminated contracts, was $11 million.

      Oberlin offered a paltry ~$3 million before the trial, which wouldn’t even cover the losses that Gibson’s had already sustained up to that point. Any other ‘offers’ they made were LATE in the trial, at one point making an ‘offer’ of settlement by email when the Gibson’s attorney was literally making his closing argument!

      Throughout this entire process, Oberlin was employing absolute scorched earth legal
      tactics and trying to simply bleed Gibson’s dry in the hopes that they would simply give up, and they very nearly succeeded, as Gibsons had to lay off most of their staff and the owners got NO salary for years while pursuing this.

      And even AFTER the initial guilty verdict, Oberlin continued to publicly BS that they had done nothing wrong, and STILL refuse to admit that they did anything wrong.

      The college deserved every penny of the judgement against them, and far more.

      I suggest you educate yourself and go back to Legal Insurrections excellent coverage of the trial proceedings and just HOW MUCH crap Oberlin had pulled.

        MajorWood in reply to Olinser. | April 2, 2022 at 1:33 pm

        The bonding company is a huge multinational enterprise and to them Oberlin is no more than a gnat. They WILL collect!

        That being said, I have always held a suspicion that Oberlin is being fronted by some wealthy socialist (oxymoron) who will make good on whatever they have to payout. That being said, I suspect that the “hypothetical” offer to cover their costs was likely made back when they were thinking that the max cost might be $1M total, including legal costs. But when it suddenly shot to the $30-40M region, there might have been some second thoughts as to how far the backroom financers were willing to go, thus now maybe leaving Oberlin on a hook that they didn’t anticipate. regardless of the outcome, Oberlin will never be able to justify spending about $10M on lawfare to crush the Gibsons, who are actually held to a higher standing by my alumni peers than the college itself.

          drsamherman in reply to MajorWood. | April 2, 2022 at 8:19 pm

          Bonding companies are absolutely merciless and mercenary in recovery of damages they have paid out in claims, and with good reason. They’ll slap liens on everything Oberlin owns down to erasers and staples.

        MajorWood in reply to Olinser. | April 2, 2022 at 1:39 pm

        Also remember that at the time of the original filing that there was speculation of this being a backdoor attempt by the college to gain access to/control of off-street parking that was owned/controlled by the Gibson family and was adjacent to the backside of the conservatory property. The joke was that by the end of the legal proceedings in 2019, that each space in the lot had a higher cost than some infamous parking spaces in NYC which cost their owner over $250K.

      Milhouse in reply to BlindJustice. | April 3, 2022 at 1:20 am

      What Olinser said.

      Gibson’s actual damages were in the 8 digits, so the settlement offers (in the low 7 digits) were insulting.

      healthguyfsu in reply to BlindJustice. | April 3, 2022 at 1:08 pm

      Many have responded to you as to why this settlement made no sense fiscally.

      Now I’m going to take a moment to personally thank the Gibson’s for NOT settling into some absolute BS settlement where the college doesn’t have to admit fault and NDAs are signed.

      NO! They absolutely did the right thing in this case for the whole country, not just themselves, and they deserve every penny for it.

I’m only sad that David Gibson didn’t live to see this day, but, his family at least has been vindicated.

I would like to believe that this entire sordid episode will serve as a cautionary tale to colleges, universities and corporations that continue to engage in manifestly obnoxious, vindictive and contemptible ginning up of their goose-stepping students and employees, under the notion that they are entitled to act however they please, as long as they wave a flag, hold up a sign or shout a slogan that is in obeisance to the latest “social justice” fashions of the day. But, sadly, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this obnoxious and totalitarian bullying.

    Arminius in reply to guyjones. | April 1, 2022 at 3:51 pm

    They’ll never learn until you can sue the administrators individually. In fact, I don’t see why you can’t. I believe I’ve seen in some court rulings concerning first amendment civil rights violations against conservative students and male college students successfully suing colleges for their kangaroo sexual misconduct mock trials that the courts would be open to suing the individuals making the policies and conducting those persecutions. In fact, on the FIRE website there are examples of free speech cases where judges have dropped the lawsuit against a university and only the named individuals remained as defendants.

    After all, it isn’t as if college administrators have sovereign immunity or even partial immunity. Particularly at a private college like Oberlin. After all, in a medical malpractice case (the recent case involving a botched surgery causing the death of actor Bill Paxton is just one example that comes to mind) the family can sue both the individual doctor who performed the surgery as well as the hospital where the surgery was performed. Which is of course why doctors carry malpractice insurance.

    When I was in the Navy I spent several months in a recruiting office. It’s true that doctors can make more in salary outside the service. But one major draw is they don’t have to carry malpractice insurance since they can’t be sued. In some cases they do the math and considering the salary, flight pay if they become flight surgeons, retention bonuses, etc., plus the lower out of pocket expenses (they also don’t have to pay to maintain a practice) being a Navy doc actually comes out ahead in total compensation.

    I don’t believe there’s such a thing as “civil rights violation insurance.” if a few of these administrators lose their houses and savings they won’t be so quick to play these malicious games to please the woke mob.

    Also, I certainly hope the Ohio Supreme Court refuses to hear the case. I don’t see why it would meet the threshold despite the Appeals Court noting that it generated considerable media attention. As I recall, the media attention was due entirely to administrators using their contacts to enlist the media attention. And in any case, as the professor points out, there are no novel issues involved. The media were simply there due to the false, defamatory allegations the college was alleging against the Gibsons.

    In fact, I see that as a reason why the Ohio Supreme Court wouldn’t want to get near this case. Given the current climate why jump into a racially charged briar patch when you don’t have to.

      Milhouse in reply to Arminius. | April 3, 2022 at 1:22 am

      They’ll never learn until you can sue the administrators individually. In fact, I don’t see why you can’t.

      You can. In this case Raimondo was sued, but the college indemnified her.

    healthguyfsu in reply to guyjones. | April 3, 2022 at 1:11 pm

    It is cautionary to not target entities. However, woke admins can still bully the bejeezus out of students, employees, and even every day people outside of their sphere.

    They are drunk with power and their woke crusades and most individuals can be trampled by their useful mob without consequence to themselves…how brave they stand.

    Milhouse in reply to Rab. | April 3, 2022 at 1:24 am

    The WSJ reporter seems to have missed the fact that the punitive damages were capped, and the appeals court upheld the cap.

broomhandle | April 1, 2022 at 4:04 pm

If I were part of the Gibson family I would use some of this money to make an exceptionally large donation to the LIF.

Islander_58North | April 1, 2022 at 6:03 pm

So, Oberlin is telling local business that black students can shoplift at will. Sounds pretty racist to me.

    It is diversity [dogma] (i.e. color judgment, class-based bigotry). It is the epitome of rabid diversity, nominally “secular” Pro-Choice “ethical” religious dogma. It is a tribal conflict between Xhosa and Zulu, painted white in order to justify invasion of a sovereign nation to capture its mineral resources. It is a progressive conflict between Hutu and Tutsi, ignored. It is a Libyan coup without cause, bringing an out of favor leader, and capture a nation with oil resources, to social justice through sodomy and abortion, and a few our own people, too.

    Milhouse in reply to Islander_58North. | April 3, 2022 at 1:33 am

    No, nobody said that. Not the college and not the students. Neither the college nor the students addressed the shoplifting, let alone condoned it. They implied (without actually saying so) that the student had been falsely accused and hadn’t stolen at all.

    That wasn’t included as one of the defamatory statements Gibson’s sued for, but in my opinion it should have been, since an ordinary person would understand without being told that the accusation was false, when in fact it was true.

Here’s to them getting that “cert denied” posthaste from the Ohio Supreme Court, so they can proceed to draining that leftwing $hithole of its ill-gotten loot.

Diversity, Inequity, and Exclusion… but, not today. Today, principles were conserved, progress was mitigated, principals were served.

AntiFa, BLM have solved this kind of case.. The solution is simple; Burn Out the Capitalist(s), get the city (Portlandia) to stand by doing nothing, wait for the death of owner, who in this case was a Black Owner Reo.. the #YouAintBlack uncle of Snoop Dog

Reference: Reo’s Ribs in Portlandia Oregon

    MajorWood in reply to mathewsjw. | April 2, 2022 at 11:45 am

    Reo’s is/was my go-to place on Wednesday for dinner. Between WuFlu and the most recent fire I was seriously lost for food choices. As I have said before, I am a graduate of Oberlin and a resident of Portland, and each morning I am not sure which will cause me more embarrassment through association. Yesterday was the second time in 3 weeks that the po po (I also lived in Balmer) have shown up to arrest a feral human inside the local library. And people wonder why I am shopping for kevlar as daily wear.

“They’ll never learn until you can sue the administrators individually. ”
****
I don’t think there is immunity for University faculty/administrators. When I was University faculty, I was told that the Univ. would provide liability coverage (legal rep., etc) for my administrative actions as long a they followed Univ. guideline, didn’t involve malice, etc.

My ex-wife was sued in Fed. Court for an adverse student evaluation; dragged on for five years but she was represented by Univ. lawyers and was at no personal financial risk.

More publicity – https://www.yahoo.com/video/court-upholds-bakery-32-million-141320346.html

If the college wants to be known as the “wokest” place in America, they may be getting $25M of free publicity. Last Fall’s enrollment at Oberlin appears to have been excellent, not that long after the original court decision in June 2019. Therefore, President Ambar and the Board of Trustees might not view current events quite as we might expect or hope.

Time for a quick drive over to Gibson’s for an apple fritter and congratulations.

Question: Can the trial court order Oberlin to pay for Gibson’s appeal legal fees?

Excellent news.

So when does Oberlin start paying? Does their insurance cover this?

Will this bankrupt the college? If the college does file bankruptcy will they get out of paying the Gibson family?

I hate it when a long comment goes “poof.” The gist of what I typed is that the overall cost will be around $50M. This will come from the endowment, which produces income. Less income will really factor into how the college is ranked, by a somewhat complicated formula, and areas of financial aid, quality of students, and admissions criteria will all suffer.. They are currently #37 natiornally, with Kenyon at 30 and Dennison at 42. I expect this to drop Oberlin into the 40’s, which will continue the trend over the last 20 years at an even higher rate. It is a positive feedback cycle that they will find difficult to extract themselves from. Get woke, go broke is in full force. By next year I expect them to be the third ranked college in Ohio.

dear oberliars: now the fun begins…..you have lost in court and the score for real pain is about to begin.

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