June 07, 2019, 08:20 PMalinc100
The Cost of Social Justice at Oberlin College
VERDICT: Jury awards Gibson’s Bakery $11 million against Oberlin college
Update 2:30 p.m. — Dan tells me the judge read the verdict in court and the jury awarded $11 million. I am waiting for details as to which plaintiffs got what, and against which defendants, and for which claims.
UPDATE 2 p.m. — Jury has reached a verdict. We should know soon.
The jury has resumed deliberations. Dan McGraw is at the courthouse. We will update this post as soon as there are any developments.
UPDATE by Dan McGraw, Thursday, 5 p.m.:
The jury in the Gibson’s Bros. v. Oberlin College has gone home for the day, and had just one question to be answered by the court this afternoon. The question concerned the Jury Instructions, unfortunately we don’t yet have a copy of the jury instructions yet.
This is what they asked, and the answer from the court (the page number is written on the top of the paper sent out):
Q. – Confusion regarding meaning of “Agent.”
— Don’t understand if Bon Appetit is an agent of college that we must find in favor of defendants
– should this be plaintiffs?
A. No, it should not be plaintiffs. That last paragraph of page 12 is correctly written.
This is the last paragraph on page 12 of the judge’s jury instruction that this question was about:
“If you find Bon Appetit is an agent of Oberlin College, you must find in favor of Oberlin College, regarding Gibson Bros. claim of intentional interference with business relationships.”
Trying to decipher what jury questions mean in the totality of the case are difficult to do – sometimes it might be just one juror is confused and the others aren’t – but I’ll take a brief stab at this.
Bon Appetit is a private company (and does this type of work for numerous universities nationally) that Oberlin College has contracted with to run their cafeterias and other food sold on the campus. Gibson’s Bakery has provided food for the cafeteria – bagels, pastry, pizza dough – and department meetings through Bob Appetit. Witnesses had testified that Oberlin College had ordered Bon Appetit to end using food from Gibson’s following the protest for about six weeks (mid-November 2016 through late January 2017).
Oberlin College had said at the trial that ending of the food provisions from Gibson’s was technically the agent they had hired so in effect they were doing it themselves, and legally they can’t interfere with themselves. So if the jury finds that Bon Appetit was merely Oberlin College’s agent, and not independently contracting with Gibson’s, then there can be no claim for tortious interference with the contract.
Gibson’s brought out the employee for the college, who managed the food provision and who oversaw Bob Appetit in their food service work, testify that the college ordered Bon Appetit to cut off Gibson’s and they did so under orders from the college.
What this means is the jury is confused as to what an agent is in this business relationship.
But trying to read too much into this is at this point in the jury deliberations is not without too much speculation. This is just one part of lost revenue, and the jury questions could mean many things – maybe they were just getting going and this popped up, or maybe it means they had figured everything out and this was the one they couldn’t decide, or maybe something between this or that.
The jury will come in Friday at 9 a.m. and continue their deliberations. Legal Insurrection will be there and have the latest news on this case.
EARLIER TODAY (BY WAJ)
The jury has commenced deliberations as of 11:30 a.m. this morning in Gibson Bros. v. Oberlin College, the lawsuit arising out of “the worst of identity politics.”
You can find background on how we got here in Putting Social Justice Warfare on trial: Gibson’s Bakery lawsuit against Oberlin College heading to trial.
The jury will have to wade through lengthy jury interrogatories for each named plaintiff. You can view the blank forms here:
Gibson Bros Inc. Jury Interrogatories
Allyn W. Gibson Jury Interrogatories
David R. Gibson Jury Interrogatories
The short version of this story is that the day after the 2016 election victory by Donald Trump, a black male Oberlin College student was stopped for shoplifting wine at Gibson’s Bakery and Market in downtown Oberlin, OH. Gibson’s had been in existence since 1885, was frequented by students, and also provided baked goods to the college dining halls. A scuffle ensued that was joined by two black female Oberlin College students accompanying the male shoplifter and apparently acting in concert with him. All three eventually would plead guilty to shoplifting and aggravated trespassing, and would avow that Gibson’s was not engaged in racial profiling.
But before those guilty pleas, students at the college immediately declared that Gibson’s was guilty of racial profiling, and large protests were organized outside the bakery. Flyers were passed out claiming Gibson’s was “racist” and had “a long account of racial profiling and discrimination.” The Oberlin College Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo allegedly participated in handing out the flyers in front of the bakery. The Oberlin College Student Senate also passed a resolution claiming Gibson’s “has a long history of racial profiling and discriminatory treatment of students and residents alike.” The college administration allegedly helped spread this student senate resolution.
Students started a boycott of the bakery, initially joined in by the college. The college eventually resumed business with the bakery, but then terminated that business after the lawsuit was filed.
Gibson’s and its owners sued the college and Raimondo for libel, tortious interference with business relationships and contracts, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and trespass. Gibson’s alleged long-term damage to its business and reputation for the allegedly defamatory accusations and other torts. The plaintiffs in closing argument asked the jury to award $12.8 million in compensatory damages.
Dan McGraw is at the courthouse. We will keep you informed of any developments here, and of course, will announce the verdict as soon as it it rendered.
As a reminder, here are the counts going to the jury:
Count 1: Libel
Count 3: Tortious Interference with Business Relationships
Count 4: Tortious Interference with Contracts
Count 6: Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Here are our some of our posts when the protests against Gibson’s started, along with the early litigation history:
Bakery targeted by Oberlin College #BlackLivesMatter fights back
Oberlin College halted purchases from Gibson’s Bakery targeted by #BlackLivesMatter, but may reconsider
Gibson’s Bakery sues Oberlin College over racial profiling accusations, Oberlin cuts business ties
Oberlin College lashes out at Gibson’s Bakery, portrays itself as victim
Court: Gibson’s Bakery lawsuit against Oberlin College can continue in full
Oberlin College: We can’t get a fair trial in our home county
Judge rejects Oberlin College request to move town-gown lawsuit to another county
Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College — Trump 2016 win stoked student protests over shoplifting incident day after election
Putting Social Justice Warfare on trial: Gibson’s Bakery lawsuit against Oberlin College heading to trial.
Here are our trial posts:
Juror perceptions of reputation and social media emerge in questioning
Opening Statements: Claims of War and Peace
Trial Day 1 – “It was a mob mentality out there”
Trial Day 2 – “I don’t know” may come back to haunt the defense
Trial Day 3 – To “unleash the students” or not, that was the question
Trial Day 4 – As protests grew, Mrs. Gibson was “very nervous and afraid”
Trial Day 5 – 90-year-old Allyn W. Gibson testifies “some threats made to us”
Trial Day 6 – What’s a bakery worth?
Trial Day 7 — Damages Expert says Show Gibson’s The Money!
Trial Day 8 — “my dad was going to pass away labeled as a racist”
Trial Day 9 – “the business never came back”
Defense motion for directed verdict DENIED, case going to the jury
Alumni Weekend – Oblivious alums in for a shock if college loses
Trial Day 10 – It depends upon what the meaning of the word “support” is
Trial Day 11 – Don’t let them eat Gibson’s cake
Trial Day 12 – Defense says Bakery worth only $35k, less than one semester at Oberlin College
Trial Day 13 — Defense expert declares Gibson family 5-generation bakery history “irrelevant”
Gibson’s Bakery v. Oberlin College trial reflects Higher Ed disconnect from the lives of most Americans
Judge keeps out politics, but Town v. Gown frames the case
Verdict this week?
Closing Argument: “When a powerful institution says you are racist, you are doomed”
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