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Oberlin College – Gibson’s Bakery Tag

The next phase in the Gibson's Bakery v. Oberlin College case is the award of attorney's fees to the Gibsons. A hearing is scheduled for July 10. Dan McGraw will be at the hearing for us, and we will preview the issues once motion papers are filed and available. In the meantime, I noticed something interesting.

After the massive $11 million compensatory and $33 million punitive damage verdicts (later reduced to $25 million under Ohio tort reform caps) against it for defaming Gibson's Bakery and its owners, Oberlin College could have done some soul searching as to its own conduct in nearly destroying a 135-year-old family business. Indeed, the purpose of punitive damages under the law is to serve, among other things, to cause such introspection in the hope of preventing future similar wrongdoing. Yet Oberlin College did just the opposite.

In the Gibson's Bakery v. Oberlin College case, the Court has entered a Judgment (pdf.)(full embed at bottom of post) calculating the damages owed by the defendants after applying the statutory tort reform caps. The total amount (inclusive of compensatory and punitive damages) is: David R. Gibson $14,000,000; Allyn W. Gibson $6,500,000; Gibson Bros. Inc. $4,549,000. The total is $25,049,000.

Oberlin College has been on a crisis management public relations campaign to create a narrative that it is the victim in the Gibson's Bakery case because it was held liable for student speech. In a series of scripted public statements, Oberlin College's president Carmen Twillie Ambar has asserted that "this is a First Amendment case about whether whether an institution can be held liable for the speech of its students. And the actions of its students. And I think it’s important whether you’re a progressive or a conservative." That is, as we have noted before, a false characterization of the case.

The massive $11 million compensatory and $33 million punitive damage verdicts in favor of Gibson's Bakery and its owners have been matched by equally massive media condemnation of Oberlin College's conduct. In response, Oberlin College has developed a crisis management talking point that this "is a First Amendment case about whether whether an institution can be held liable for the speech of its students." It's a narrative of Oberlin College as victim, not the perpetrator the jury found it to be, and it's being rolled out by Oberlin College with increasing media focus.

Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar has staked out an aggressive posture in reaction to the massive $11 million compensatory and $33 million punitive damage verdicts awarded Gibson's Bakery and its owners against Oberlin College and its Dean of Students, Meredith Raimondo. Those verdicts likely will be reduced under Ohio's tort reform law, but still likely will be in the 8-figure range, how high in the 8-figures will be one of the major post-trial fights.

The massive compensatory and punitive damage verdicts against Oberlin College and in favor of Gibson's Bakery and it's owners 91-year-old Allyn W. Gibson and his son David Gibson, have captured substantial attention. Almost none of that attention has been favorable to Oberlin College, with withering Op-Eds eviscerating Oberlin College and its social justice warfare gone mad.

Oberlin College has taken a public relations beating in the wake of the massive verdicts against it and its Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo in the Gibson's Bakery case. The verdicts totaled $44 million, but those will be reduced under Ohio's tort reform law -- how much they are reduced will be the subject of court litigation, but there will be a substantial reduction (perhaps more than half) in all likelihood. The stories are too numerous to list, but there has been widespread criticism of Oberlin College's conduct.

The massive compensatory and punitive damage jury verdicts in favor of Gibson's Bakery and its owners Allyn W. Gibson and David Gibson, against Oberlin College and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo, continue to reverberate. This case is a big shock to the higher educational system and already is giving rise to a rethinking of the role of administrators in participating in student activism. Yet think of the jury verdict as the end of the beginning. The most legally dangerous territory for the Gibsons is ahead. The facts of the case were so strong for the Gibsons that in some ways the easiest part is behind them. Now they need to protect what they have earned from numerous legal dangers. As discussed below, in addition to other legal challenges, the defense will save millions under Republican tort reform laws, how many millions will be a fight.

We have covered Oberlin College at least since 2013, when we wrote extensively about The Great Oberlin College Racism Hoax of 2013. Classes were cancelled in favor of campus-wide forums to address white supremacy and systemic racism after racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic flyers were posted around campus. The campus almost melted down when a student spotted someone walking at night in a Ku Klux Klan robe. It turned out not to be the Klan, but likely a student walking at night wrapped in a blanket for warmth.

After a jury awarded Gibson's Bakery and its owners $11 million in compensatory damages, and $33 million in punitive damages (which likely will be reduced to $22 million under a state law capping damages at 2X compensatory damages), the college and its administrators are unapologetic and vowing to fight. The President of Oberlin College, Carmen Twillie Ambar, just sent this blast email (h/t commenter rhhardin):

When the punitive damage jury verdict was read in court yesterday in Gibson's Bakery v. Oberlin College, it was like a seismic wave moving quickly through the courtroom. It was that big, bigger than anyone had expected. The added punitive damages was $33,223,500, charged to Oberlin College. That was $33 million in damages added on to the $11.2 million they had already awarded the small business family and its owners as compensatory damages.

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 jury just rendered its verdict on punitive damages in the Gibson's Bakery v. Oberlin College case. Daniel McGraw, our reporter in the courtroom, reports that in addition to the $11.2 million compensatory damages awarded last Friday, the jury awarded a total of $33 million in punitive damages, which will probably be reduced by the court to $22 million because of the state law cap at twice compensatory (it's not an absolute cap, but probably will apply here). That brings the total damages to $33 million. We will have the breakdown soon. The jury also awarded attorney's fees, to be determined by the judge.
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