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Oberlin College – Gibson’s Bakery Tag

There have been many strange motions and actions in the Gibson's Bakery v. Oberlin College case. A post-trial motion by Oberlin College to unseal Facebook records may be one of the more strange developments, and offers a window into the bitter feelings of college officials. Allyn D. Gibson (Allyn D.) is the grandson of plaintiff Allyn W. Gibson ("Allyn W.") and the son of plaintiff David Gibson. Allyn D., who was not a party in the lawsuit, was the store clerk on duty who caught an Oberlin College student shoplifting.

The Gibson's Bakery v. Oberlin College lawsuit has entered two post-trial phases: (1) Post-trial motions then appeals, and (2) public relations. As part of this jockeying, Oberlin College's president Carmen Twillie Ambar has written op-eds and given interviews in which she asserts that Oberlin College was held responsible for the speech of students. This, she argues, presents a threat to campus 1st Amendment rights because it could force universities to clamp down on student speech to avoid liability.

David Gibson, one of the owners of Gibson's Bakery and a plaintiff in the lawsuit that yielded almost $32 million in damages against Oberlin College, has just posted a video on Facebook announcing that he has pancreatic cancer. (h/t to multiple readers for alerting me) In the video (below), David says that Oberlin College has known about his illness for several months, and made a motion in court to keep that information away from jurors.

The compensatory and punitive damages of $25 million (after reduction for tort reform caps), plus the over $6.5 million in attorney's fees and costs, put Oberlin College almost $32 million in debt to Gibson's Bakery and its owners. Absent some judicial action, the next step would have been for the Gibsons to execute on the judgment, meaning start collecting the money through post-judgment remedies, such as seizing bank accounts and physical property.

The $25 million damages judgment plus the over $6.5 million attorney's fees and expenses award, puts Oberlin College almost $32 million in debt to Gibson's Bakery and its owners. Post-judgment interest in Ohio is 5%, which if my math is correct, on $32 million equals $1.6 million a year just in interest, or $4,384 per day. So that $32 million is going to keep growing as the inevitable appeal winds its way through the courts.

In one of the last hearings in local court regarding the Gibson's Bakery v. Oberlin College case, Lorain County Common Pleas Judge John R. Miraldi heard evidence today on what the college owes in attorney's fees. As previously reported, Gibson's signaled in court filings that it intended to seek $9-13 million, including a so-called lodestar.

The $11 million compensatory and $33 million punitive damage verdicts won by Gibson's Bakery and its owners against Oberlin College later were reduced to $25 million under Ohio tort reform caps. But there is an important piece left in the case, the determination by Judge John Miraldi of the amount of attorney's fees, after the jury found in the punitive damage verdict that the plaintiffs were entitled to such fees.

Reviewing the intense public relations campaign launched by Oberlin College after the $11 million compensatory and $33 million punitive damage verdicts (later reduced to $25 million under Ohio tort reform caps), I felt an "intervention" by someone who "truly cares" about Oberlin College was needed:
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