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Cops and Courts

Oberlin College ordered to post $36M bond in case against Gibson's Bakery

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ELYRIA — Lorain County Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi has ordered Oberlin College to post a $36 million appeal bond before he stays execution of the multimillion-dollar judgment recently won against the college by Gibson’s Bakery and the Gibson family.

Attorneys for the Gibsons had requested the college post a bond worth $36,367,711.56, representing the total amount of judgments against the college, plus interest, awarded by a jury and Miraldi following a six-week trial that lasted from late May into early June.

Such bonds are known as supersedeas or appeal bonds and allow defendants in a suit to delay paying the judgment ordered against them until they have exhausted all their appeals. Oberlin College attorneys said in court they intend to appeal but have declined further comment on the matter outside court.

Attorneys for Oberlin College had asked the judge to not immediately order their client to pay the $25 million in compensatory and punitive damages awarded at the conclusion of the case, saying they anticipated filing additional post-trial motions. They also asked him not to enforce a bond, a request attorneys for the Gibsons had opposed.

Miraldi ruled Thursday that Ohio law gives him “great discretion in determining what conditions, if any, are proper to grant a stay of execution of the judgment and to afford security to the Plaintiffs.”

There are conditions to Miraldi’s order: He ordered Oberlin College to post the bond by Wednesday, July 31, in order to stay judgment until Aug. 19. Failure to post the bond, he wrote in his decision, will result in the stay of judgment being lifted.

Miraldi also gave Oberlin College until Aug. 19 to file post-trial motions if they wish to extend the stay of judgment further, to Sept. 9.

Attorneys for the Gibsons will have 14 days from Aug. 19 to respond to Oberlin College’s motions. Miraldi wrote that he would rule on Oberlin College’s motions by Sept. 9.

The Gibsons and their bakery sued Oberlin College in 2017, alleging that the college and dean of students/vice president Meredith Raimondo libeled the bakery and its owners, intentionally inflicted emotional distress on them and intentionally interfered with the bakery’s business relationships.

The actions that led to the lawsuit occurred during student protests outside the bakery for two days in November 2016. Students were upset over what they perceived was racism in the treatment of students of color by the Gibsons and the bakery.

The fuse that lit the protest was an incident in which a black student had shoplifted wine and tried to buy alcohol with a fake ID. The student and two others, who also are black, then assaulted Allyn D. Gibson, the son of bakery owner David Gibson, when he pursued the thief from the store.

Those students were arrested by Oberlin police and later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges. At the time of their pleas, they said the Gibsons were not racist and admitted Allyn Gibson was within his rights to give chase.

During the civil trial, the Gibsons denied being racist and put several witnesses on the stand who denied every being mistreated by the business or its owners due to their skin color. A jury of eight sided with the Gibsons and awarded them and their business more than $44 million, the largest civil judgment for defamation by libel in Ohio history.

Citing Ohio law governing damage caps on civil judgments, Miraldi later reduced the damages to $25 million. He awarded the Gibsons and their attorneys $6.5 million in fees last week, payable by Oberlin College.

Contact Dave O’Brien at (440) 329-7129 or do’brien@chroniclet.com. Follow him at @daveobrienCT on Twitter.


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