Gibson family appeals reduction of $44 million award in case against Oberlin College

Gibson family appeals reduction of $44 million award in case against Oberlin College

The Gibson family, owner of Gibson’s bakery, won their case against Oberlin College earlier this year and a jury awarded the family a total of $44 million. However, that amount was later reduced to just over $31 million to keep it in line with caps on damages that exist under Ohio law. Earlier this month the college filed an appeal of that reduced judgment:

Oberlin College is appealing the $31.6 million in damages it was ordered to pay Gibson’s bakery stemming from protests outside the College Street business in November 2016.

“The verdict and judgment in this case set a precedent that endangers free speech on campuses and for all Americans,” Lee Levine, an attorney representing the college, said in a news release. “The jury was allowed to award substantial damages for speech that is protected by the Constitution. The case should absolutely be reviewed by an appellate court.”

Now the Gibson family is filing its own “cross-appeal” to challenge the reduction of the award. Legal Insurrection reports:

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 [bring] 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.

I have no idea how long these various appeals will drag out the case, but bakery owner David Gibson announced in August that he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year and does not expect to live through the end of the case.

“As you know, the jury sent a clear message that the truth still matters in this country,” Gibson said. He continued, “But recent public statements from Oberlin College make it clear that the college is refusing to accept the jury’s decision. The college has stated that the verdict is just the beginning of a long legal process. I believe they’re sending a clear message to me and to my 91-year-old dad that they will just wait us out.

“I’ll do everything I can to make sure I see this through, and even if I’m not able to see the end of this battle, our family is committed to continue serving the Oberlin community, just as we have for the past 134 years.”

Finally, it’s worth noting that despite the claims of Oberlin’s lawyers, this is not a case about the free speech of students. Legal Insurrection has rebutted this claim several times:

It is clear that Oberlin College has settled on the claim that it is the defender of student free speech as a crisis management theme.

We have explored many times why the assertion that the college was held liable for the speech of students is false. Oberlin College was held liable for the actions of its administrators, including the Senior Vice President and Dean of Students, in spreading the defamatory statements. The college may dispute the facts, but the legal theory of liability cannot be disputed.

Oberlin is not a victim in this case, it was the victimizer which is why the jury gave them such a massive penalty. Here’s hoping David Gibson is able to hold on long enough to see the school pay his family and attorneys the full $50 million.

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