Jury awards Gibson’s Bakery $33 million in punitive damages
By Thomas Lifson < >
It appears that the ordinary folk who live in proximity to hyper-progressive campuses are fed-up with being the objects of false accusations of racism (and all the other imaginary offenses ending in ...isms and ...phobia), and want to incentivize change in academia. The same jury that awarded a local bakery $11.3 million in compensatory damages from Oberlin College (for background on the case see this, this, this and this) added another $33 million in punitive damages, intended to send a message to the defendant and to similar institutions that such behavior is strongly discouraged.
As William A. Jacobson of Legal Insurrection points out, Ohio law caps punitive damages at 200% of compensatory damages, so the jury actually exceeded that cap.
…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.
I’d say that the jury was indeed sending a message to Oberlin and its students that they are fed-up with pampered, arrogant, politically correct social justice warriors and the college officials who coddle and support them. In the case of Gibson’s Bakery, the 5 generation family business was punished with demonstrations, pamphlets, and boycotts for allegedly being racist in apprehending a black student who had shoplifted some wine, and then two other black Oberlin students joined in to beat and kick the family member who caught the thief.
Paul Mirengoff of Powerline points out that Oberlin appears to have engaged in a bit of double-talk:
As I understand it, Oberlin argued at trial that it isn’t liable because its students, not the college, were to blame for harming Gibson’s. Then, at the damages phase, Oberlin argued that the college shouldn’t be slammed with a big damages assessment because that outcome would harm its students.
Buoyed by an ocean of federal loans and grant money to students, higher education has drifted off into its own twisted universe with a sense of right and wrong at odds with the experiences and beliefs of most non-academics. The Lorain County jury in Ohio has pulled Oberlin back toward reality, though it is all but certain Oberlin will appeal and exercise all the option s available to postpone or overturn the judgment against it.
The danger for the academy extends far beyond the potential for future lawsuits against colleges and universities for coddling and encouraging outrageous behavior by student radicals. The broader society contains many people who are utterly fed up with its childish self-centered arrogance. With the cohort of college age potential students shrinking, academia is going to want a lot more money from private and governmental sources to help it survive. Having alienated many potential bases of support, they will find that help, when they need it, may not be as available as they hope.