If you’ve been on this site for a longish while, you’ll know about the legal fight between Gibson’s Bakery and Oberlin College, which has dragged on since 2016. My many posts on it can be seen here, and if you want a summary, I’ll refer you to the Wikipedia page on Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College.
In short, what happened is that on November 9, 2016, proprietor Allyn Gibson caught a few Oberlin students, one of whom was black, shoplifting wine (and also trying to buy more booze with fake IDs. Trying to apprehend the thief, a younger Gibson, Allyn (not the one mentioned below) got involved in a scuffle, with several Oberlin students beating and kicking him on the ground. The three students later pleaded guilty.
Because there was race involved, Oberlin administrators, as well as students, framed this as some kind of racist attack by Gibson’s, and instead of keeping silent, which is what they should have done, the administrators encouraged (legal) student protests against the bakery, stopped doing business with it, and defamed it. The administration also used College money to buy food and supplies for the student protestors. The protests, of course, were on the grounds of racism, though Gibson’s had no history of racism and a black employee said he’d never seen any.
My posts contain some of the emails between Oberlin administrators that were introduced as evidence, and they’re pretty damning. Have a look at this post to see how hard Oberlin dug in its heels, and how intemperate they were.
All this, of course, occurred despite the students’ admission of guilt.
Originally, Gibson’s just wanted an apology, but when they got attacked by Oberlin instead, they sued the college in 2017 for “libel, slander, interference with business relationships, and interference with contracts.” They won the civil suit: the jury, obviously fed up with the College, awarded Gibson’s $11 million in compensatory damages and $33 million in punitive damages. That’s a cool $44 million—a big nut for the College. The judge later reduced the award to $25 million but tacked on another $6.5 million for legal fees. As I recall, Oberlin had to post bond for that amount if it appealed, which it did in 2020.
The Gibsons also appealed over the monetary damages and the exclusion of witnesses. The judges affirmed the lower court ruling against Oberlin; as Wikipedia notes,
In a 3-0 decision, the panel upheld the jury verdict that Oberlin College defamed, inflicted distress, and illegally interfered with the bakery. The damages were capped by Ohio state law at $25 million in total damages, in place of the jury’s original verdict of $11.1 million in compensatory and $33.2 million in punitive damages. Oberlin was also ordered to pay $6.3 million in attorney’s fees to the bakery
Oberlin wouldn’t give up, even though it was losing students because of its behavior, and also stood to lose money as interest mounted on the amount of the fine. They appealed to the Supreme Court of Ohio, and yesterday the judgment came down.
It is below: the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal. GIbson’s won!
The decision was 4-3, and the Gibsons were awarded $36 million. That’s a lot of dosh for a small school, and represents a lot of scholarships that could have been awarded had the chowderheads at Oberlin just apologized in the first place.
It’s all over; the Fat Lady has sung. Oberlin is an ex-reputable college, singing with the Choir Invisible. In the article below (click on screenshot), the site Legal Insurrection, which has consistently and accurately covered the whole issue, describes the swan song:
There’s not much more to report except for the statements of the victors. The first is from Lee Plakas, lead trial counsel for the Gibsons:
On behalf of the Gibson family and the trial team, Truth Still Matters, David can still overcome Goliath.
We and the Gibson family are gratified that all judges on the court of appeals and the majority of the Ohio Supreme Court recognized the rights of individuals rather than the bullying tactics of the big institutions.
And here are quotes “from the Gibsons and the trial team”:
“Oberlin tried to frame this case with claims and issues that weren’t on trial. This has never been a case about a student’s first amendment rights. Individuals’ reputations should never be sacrificed at a false altar of free speech. The Gibsons and the entire State of Ohio should appreciate that the jury, a unanimous Ninth District Court of Appeals, and a majority of the Justices on the Ohio Supreme Court recognized that the deplorable conduct of Oberlin College could not be camouflaged by misleading claims of free speech.”
“The jury recognized Oberlin College’s bullying tactics. The students admitted their misconduct, but Oberlin College could never admit that they were wrong. They presumed that they could bring the Gibsons to their knees. The power of truth has enabled the Gibson family to survive Oberlin’s onslaught.”
Legal Insurrection adds this:
We reached out to Oberlin College for comment, but have not yet received a response.
They will wait a long time!
As far as I know, this exhausts Oberlin’s options. Sadly, Allyn Gibson, the real victim, who was beaten up, didn’t live to see this day: he died in February of this year. Here’s a photo of the Gibsons after one of their victories. Allyn is in the center with the walker. He and the bakery were much beloved by the community, which may be one reason why the punitive damages were so high.
The lesson for Oberlin is clear: in the words of Davy Crockett: “Be always sure you’re right — THEN GO AHEAD!” Oberlin knew that the students were guilty of shoplifting and that Gibson’s had no history or reputation for racism, but they still went after the bakery like a pack of rabid wolves. That’s because they thought, I suppose, that because one of the shoplifters was a black student, the College was on the side of the angels by attacking the bakery.
They weren’t. It’s a simply matter of the facts, and a case of a college, marinated in self-styled virtue and delusions of power, going after the Little Guys for no good reason. I savor every penny that Oberlin will have to cough up.
Oberlin, I hardly need to mention, is one of the wokest colleges in America.
52 thoughts on “Gibson’s Bakery wins for good; Supreme Court of Ohio upholds verdict against Oberlin College”
Oberlin was on my short list of colleges, but everyone and everything about the place just seemed so dogmatic. This was 1972-ish, with Kent State only a couple of years earlier, but still… We didn’t have the term “woke” back in the Nixon Administration, and I was hard put to describe it. Years later, I had a job interview at Antioch College, which made Oberlin look like BYU.
When I was in college in the 1960s, Oberlin had a very good reputation for both academics and especially for music. I tried to transfer there after my first year at Case-Western Reserve, but at the time Oberlin said they would not accept transfer students. It was a very politically and socially liberal school, which is part of why I wanted to go there, but nothing like today’s “wokeness.” Glad to see the bakery won.
I’ll have my schadenfreude on a toasted bagel.
I love that the German noun “schadenfreude” has entered the English vocabulary. 🙂
PS: My congratulations to Gibson’s for the final victory.
Maybe Oberlin will have to declare bankruptcy or go out of business. That is a very big award to the plaintiffs. Or, perhaps they can simply jettison their DEI bureaucrats to make ends meet. That’s what got them here in the first place.
My sincerest hope is that they are forced into bankruptcy!
Unlikely, Oberlin’s endowment is over a billion dollars. The award represents about 3 months interest on their endowment. They could easily pay the award.
I wonder if any of the decision-makers at Oberlin, who seem to have driven the institution off a cliff, will actually be held accountable by Oberlin’s stakeholders. That to me is the real test….will this “Go Woke and Go Broke” lesson hit home, or will they just double-down into an even more insulated and woker institution?
Here’s a main one:
Former Dean of Students and Vice President Meredith Raimondo left Oberlin in October to begin her role as vice president for student affairs at Oglethorpe University.Dec 17, 2021
Thanks for the info. But it seems she just got another cushy admin job at another University. This seems to be “failing up” or at least “failing sideways”…does not seem like her career was negatively impacted in any significant way.
Precisely. Walk away and leave the new students to deal with it. Just like when the NCAA punished schools for what the sports coaches did.
It never is for high echelon academics
I was very happy to see this. I hope other colleges and universities take note.
The flaming, self-righteous wokeliness of several Oberlin diversicrats was evident in
their Emails, revealed during the trial. [For example, see: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10715281/How-woke-Oberlin-bullies-thrived-driving-bakery-brink-racism-lies.html ]. Now, Oberlin is among the most expensive colleges in the US, bringing to mind the wokeliness also displayed at several very expensive private schools in NYC. If I may be permitted a bit of psychoanalytic speculation, maybe this correlation indicates a form of imposter syndrome at these pricey institutions. Members of their bureaucracies and faculties, sensing (subconsciously perhaps) that they are engaged in an extravagantly overpriced racket, attempt to compensate by adopting postures of flaming wokeliness.
To all higher ed administrators: “Remember the Oberlin.”
Or…”When you find yourself digging a hole, stop digging.”
How repulsive of a university to side with thieving students in the first place. I hope this is not normal in the US.
There is nothing wrong with siding with the thieving students. Help them by all means. It’s the wasting of 30 odd M$ that could have gone to disadvantaged students that we should be concerned with.
Nothing wrong with siding with admitted thieves against a small business? Really?
Not to mention that they apparently beat up a store employee…
These youths plainly need(ed?) help in becoming productive members of society. What this line of thought seems to be arguing for is retribution.
You might argue the University in practice did not help one iota. Here I would agree with you. In fact, based on what I have read, the Gibson family did far more to help these youths.
Nobody is arguing for retribution; the kids pleaded guilty and served no time, and I think their records will be expunged. Where does the “retribution” come from? As for “retribution” towards Oberlin, they needed some stiff deterrence, and they got it.
There is everything wrong with it.
Oh for crying out loud. Nothing wrong with approving of shoplifters that kicked and beat a guy? I suppose you think that Oberlin was okay trying to drive Gibson’s out of business, too. Let this be a lesson to colleges not to be too quick to accuse people of racism, and then to punish them. Seriously, nothing wrong with siding with criminals?
Too bad Oberlin lost; maybe they’ll learn a lesson by losing students, which is what is happening. And seriously, your comment is morally obtuse.
The power of a Compelling Story doesn’t always hold up against the Reality — and the law can be a tool for the latter. For some reason I’m reminded here of Dover. The Intelligent Design/Creationists adopted a narrative with religious and moral weight, worked themselves up into a self-confirming bubble of self-righteous certainty, and then saw their rhetoric dismissed as irrelevant. What was left was the actual case — and that was their weak point.
What happens if Oberlin refuses to pay? Can that happen?
The college posted bond for judgment; this doesn’t seem to cover legal fees. I am waiting to hear that the bakery gets paid. Court case is over but will there be legal proceedings to enforce payment?
Oberlin College got an appeal bond through Zurich American Insurance Co. after Miraldi ordered the college to do so in July 2019. Also called supersedeas bonds, appeals bonds ensure a monetary judgment can be paid if an appeal fails.
Oberlin College posted the appeal bond after the jury initially awarded the Gibsons $44 million in damages. It was the largest damage award for libel in Ohio history until Miraldi reduced it to $25 million based on Ohio caps on civil damages.
As long as the judgment stands against it, Oberlin College also owes the Gibsons $6.5 million in attorney fees.
Interesting – Oberlin’s insurance. Well their premiums are likely going to increase, as are those of other similar colleges. The pain is likely going to be spread and deferred for future students.
Oberlin says “you’re welcome”.
What about the faculty and staff at Oberlin that were never spear-heading the defamation of the Gibson bakery? Could there be lay-offs? I would feel bad about that, although the blame rests entirely on the people who drove the college into the ground.
There already have been. Oberlin College”president” (and slimy lawyer) Carmen Twillie Ambar has already instituted cost-cutting measures: she laid off faculty and staff and hired a Catholic company called BonSecours to run the student health service. Karma wins: BonSecours refuses to cover birth control. The college has resorted to bussing students to another clinic (3 days a week), having that same place come on campus four days a week and putting vending machines on campus to get birth control. HIPPA violations, anyone? The place has become a punchline in academic circles. Who is paying? The new faculty and staff, current and future students and us: the alumni.
As Prof. Coyne has said before, wokeness is a one-way ratchet wrench. Oberlin can’t admit they’re wrong, the Woke never do.
What if Oberlin refuses to pay?
Couldn’t the court seize assets to pay the fines?
I wonder what of the senior officers of Oberlin who are responsible for losing the college 30 M$. It could be half a year’s income from their endowment. Any repercussions for the senior administration?
And one might wonder where the sage advice from the board of trustees was in all this?
Normally after a debacle like tis there is the odd resignation.
Small correction to “Allyn Gibson, the real victim, who was beaten up.” I think it was his son David and grandson Allyn D. who were in the store the day of the shoplifting incident and who were assaulted.
It was the grandson who chased the shoplifter and was assaulted by him and his pals.
Meredith Raimondo, Oberlin VP who was a codefendant in the Gibson’s Bakery suit, went on sabbatic leave after the trial, and never returned. Instead, she moved to an administration post at Oglethorpe University in Georgia. For more on that institution,
see: https://giphy.com/stories/oglethorpe-stickers-have-arrived-a8a90a07-bf3f .
Vice President of Student Affairs? I would love to see the CVs of the other candidates.
I must admit I am unfamiliar with how senior positions at universities are filled, but this does not give me comfort. This link is a little more informative:
I thought the link I gave summed up Meredith Raimondo’s new employer quite
adequately, especially the cartoon of Oglethorpe U.’s mascot bird.
not when I click on it ;(
GIbson’s won! Great news! Just possibly, this will discourage pushing WOKE foolishness this far at other schools. A change of course would probably would require firing some of the administrators.
“Foolishness”? This isn’t foolishness. It’s fascist thuggery.
It’s been a long time comin’, and it’s gonna be a long time gone (Oberlin’s cool $25 mil, that is).
Earlier this month, the Ohio state supreme court reduced the damage award from $36 to $25 mil. Also, I see that three of the seven Buckeye State supreme court justices dissented from the denial to grant review on the merits of the case. Oberlin’s memorandum in support of jurisdiction raised two issues regarding First Amendment free speech. A number of media companies and organizations filed amicus briefs asking the court to consider these issues.
Also, since Oberlin raised federal constitutional issues in this case, it’s free to seek a writ of certiorari from SCOTUS to review those issues (although I doubt the Court would grant review). So, unless Oberlin has made an announcement that it will not do so, it may be a bit premature to start singing “End of the Line” just quite yet.
It IS hard to imagine the conservative SCOTUS having much interest in “helping” Oberlin, at any level, though.
Yeah, I think the Court as currently composed is more likely to narrow the exceptions to libel law than to expand them. Clarence Thomas, for one, has made no secret of his desire to cut back on New York Times Co. v. Sullivan.
In order to cut costs, Oberlin closed its on-campus health care and contacted it out to a Catholic institution. Oberlin apparently was surprised to learn that there would no longer be contraceptive services, etc. After a bit of push-back, they have also engaged another entity to provide those services. Wonder if they ended up saving any money.
Any chance the morons responsible for this fiasco will be fired from any administrative role and Oberlin and blacklisted from working in any role in education again?
Nope. E.g., “Former Dean of Students and Vice President Meredith Raimondo left Oberlin in October to begin her role as vice president for student affairs at Oglethorpe University.Dec 17, 2021”
I hope that the Gibsons are able to force the Oberlin cesspit into bankruptcy!