Oberlin denied a new trial in the Gibson’s Bakery case « Why Evolution Is True

From the beginning, Legal Insurrection (LI) has had the best continuing covering of the Oberlin vs. Gibson’s Bakery case (see here for a list of my posts on the matter). Yes, it’s a right-wing site (I always have to apologize for this, but not for citing the New York Times or Salon!), but LI‘s reporting has been, to the best of my knowledge, pretty fair and absolutely accurate. And, of course, Left-wing media avoids the case like a hot potato—for obvious reasons: Wokeness took a big hit.

You may recall that the jury originally fined Oberlin a total of $44 million in punitive and compensatory damages, an amount later reduced to $25 million. On top of that was added another $6.5 million to cover lawyers’ fees, so Oberlin was in it for $31.5 million—a big chunk of change. Then, since Oberlin has pleaded temporary impecuniousness and said it would file post-trial appeals to the court, so the judge ordered the college to post a $36.4 million bond.  Now, the judge has denied the college the new trial it so desperately wanted (click on screenshot):

As LI reports:

Before appealing, Oberlin College filed two post-trial motions, a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding The Verdict (pdf.) and Motion for a New Trial (pdf.), as explained in our post, Oberlin College Seeks New Trial in Gibson’s Bakery Case.

Gibson’s Bakery responded with an Opposition to the Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding The Verdict (pdf.), and Opposition to the Motion for a New Trial (pdf.), as explained in our post, Gibson’s Bakery: Oberlin College’s request for a new trial is “baseless”.

Judge John Miraldi has ruled, denying both motions. The Order Denying Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (pdf.) and Order Denying Motion for New Trial (pdf.) are embedded at the bottom of the post.

In the JNOV Order, the Court ruled in pertinent part:

Judgment notwithstanding the verdict is only appropriate where, when the evidence is construed most strongly in favor of the nonmoving party, reasonable minds can come to one conclusion, and that conclusion is adverse to the non-moving party. See McMichael v. Akron General Medical Center, 2017-Ohio-7594, ,r 1 O (Ohio Ct. App. 9th Dist.); see a/so Goodrich, at ¶ 11.

The Court has reviewed and considered the parties’ respective briefs and applicable precedent and, after construing the evidence most strongly in Plaintiff’s favor, the Court does not find that the Defendants are entitled to judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Accordingly, Defendants’ Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict is denied.

In the New Trial Order, the Court ruled in pertinent part:

Ohio Civ. R. 59(A) empowers a trial court to grant a new trial when a party has been awarded “[e]xcessive or inadequate damages, appearing to have been given under the influence of passion or prejudice”. Tesar Indus. Contractors, Inc. v. Republic Steel, 2018-Ohio-2089, ¶¶ 31 (Ohio Ct. App. 9th Dist.) (internal citations omitted).

Having considered the parties respective briefs and arguments and applicable precedent, the Court finds that the amount awarded is not manifestly excessive nor does it appear to be influenced by passion or prejudice. Accordingly, Defendants’ Motion for a New Trial or Remittitur is denied.

As far as I know, Oberlin will also be responsible for paying the interest on the award amount, which is why there’s a $36 million dollar bond secured by Oberlin. As I wrote previously:

The interest alone on the judgment (assuming a rate of 5%) is more than $4,000 per day, and that will presumably be added to the total fees should Gibson’s ultimately prevail. Ergo Gibson’s asked for this (indent from Legal Insurrection site):

The judgment interest rate in 2019 is 5%. Therefore, if appeals of this case last just three years, the total amount of post-judgment interest that Defendants will have to pay is $4,742,179.77 –which is $1,580,726.59 per year or $4,330.76 per day. [JAC: This, added to the previous award, adds up to $36 million, which is the bond that the judge just required the College to post.]

Oberlin, in the midst of declining enrollment (one reason it pleaded poverty), appears to be in it for the long haul, digging in its heels. It’s above my pay grade to speculate how an appeals court would rule, but Oberlin will surely appeal this case. In the meantime, should the college ultimately lose, the clock is ticking to the tune of $4000 per day.

h/t: BJ

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