Gibson’s Judgment Is Only Paper Until It’s Paid

It all started five years ago, when passions at Oberlin College, always high, were reaching a new apex, and so Gibson’s Bakery became an easy target for condemnation when it called the police on a black student for shoplifting, inter alia, because he, well, shoplifted and inter alia’d. Not that committing the crime is a defense to accusations of racism at Oberlin, where the students, faculty and administration are very intelligent and woke.

All of which resulted in a judgment in favor of Gibson’s against Oberlin in the initial amount of almost $32 million in 2019. Oberlin appealed, as is its right, and lost. Unanimously. The appellate court issued a mandate to the trial court to execute the judgment. Oberlin sought leave to appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, a discretionary appeal, which remains pending. As for the trial court, the motion to execute judgment is . . . who knows where.

In the meantime, Gibson’s, which survived on the college buying its products and being a popular store for students until it was turned into a racist pariah, is financially starving. Two generations of Gibson’s present at the start of this mess are no longer with us. And the bakery has a lot of paper, news clippings and a judgment that says $32 million on it, and beyond that not much to show for Oberlin’s tortious conduct.

It is over 3 years since Gibson’s Bakery obtained judgment against Oberlin College for almost $32 million, which with accumulated interest nears $36 million, the amount of a bond posted by the college through Zurich American Insurance to secure the judgment.

Neither “Grandpa” Allyn Gibson nor his son David Gibson lived to see the Gibson family collect. They both passed away, as Oberlin College waited them out.

Posting a bond to secure a judgment pending appeal is the normal way for a non-governmental litigant to hold off execution of a judgment until the appeals are over. But in this case, the appellate court ruled last April, 3-0, that Oberlin College lost. No new stay of execution was issued, so there was nothing to be bonded and the judgment, plus interest, was ripe for execution. Or one would think.

Oberlin College has done everything possible to delay the Gibson’s getting the money, including an appeal which the college lost and another appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, which has not yet ruled on whether it will hear the case. Because the appellate court ruling affirming the judgment included a mandate that the trial court “execute” on the judgment, the Gibsons moved in the trial court to collect the bond. The college then sought a stay from the Ohio Supreme Court. Neither the trial court nor the Ohio Supreme Court have ruled on the motions as of this writing, so the Gibson’s attempt to collect on the bond is in limbo.

Among the many reasons why a lawsuit isn’t the solution to every grievance is that you can’t get blood from a rock. If you sue and prevail against a defendant without assets, you end up with the satisfaction of winning and a lovely piece of paper suitable for framing. But Gibsons was suing a college, and not some fly-by-night pretend college like Trump U., but a legit school of high education, Oberlin. Surely it had funds. If not, it had land, building, something that could be sold off to the highest bidder at a sheriff’s auction.

But once bond was posted by the Zurich Insurance Company, they were on the line for the judgment, and it was up to Zurich to chase down Oberlin if they wanted their money back. No doubt Gibsons’ attorney sent Zurich a nice letter saying, “good fight, guys, but you lost so send check asap.” And when no check arrived, they went to plan B, to petition the court for execution of the judgment, which should have turned around in hours since Oberlin obtained no further stay of execution following its crashing loss on appeal and it’s nothing more than a clerical matter. But nothing happened.

So what gives?

Beginning with the College-supported business disruptions that are already in the record
and continuing to the present, Dave Gibson and his surviving widow, Lorna, have been required to mortgage virtually all of their equity in their home and rental properties to remain viable. The various mortgages are a matter of public record and undoubtedly the Gibsons’ financial distress is known to Oberlin College. Now, Lorna estimates that unless there is a substantial change in circumstances, the bakery may only survive for the next couple of months.

As Ohio courts have observed: “Justice delayed is justice denied’ may be an old adage, but it undoubtably rings true.” Adkins v. Commissioner of Social Security, S.D. Ohio No. 1 :20-cv-745, 2021 WL 6134139. The Gibsons are in need of speedy justice and an end to Oberlin’s delay tactics. The Gibsons respectfully request an oral hearing or granting of their motion to enter judgment on Zurich American Insurance Company’s supersedeas bond. Speedy relief is necessary for the preservation of their historic business and the lifetime work of generations of Gibsons.

It can be argued that it’s only a bit over three months since the appellate court affirmed the Gibsons judgment against Oberlin, and they have sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, such that it’s possible that the judgment might still be reversed. But for Gibsons, the revenue stream from Oberlin wrongly dried up five years ago, and even a 137-year-old business, which survived a couple world wars and a great depression, needs money to survive the woke enlightenment.

And once the appellate affirmance without stay issued, the burden was on Oberlin to obtain a further stay of execution rather than the Gibsons to fight over and over to execute on a judgment already won and affirmed. If it lives long enough, as neither “Grandpa” Allyn Gibson nor his son David Gibson did. May they rest in peace.

15 thoughts on “Gibson’s Judgment Is Only Paper Until It’s Paid

  1. Paleo

    The holier-than-thou administrators and students of Oberlin constantly look down on the rest of us and lecture us for our mostly imagined shortcomings. And then they pull this crap on an innocent family business.

    They have no moral ground from which to judge us because they have no morals.

  2. Elpey P.

    Now the students are out in the real world, likely without a care for the fallout of their efforts, and administration is off working at other colleges, waiting for the next uprising.

  3. Paleo

    If I stiffed a judgement like this they’d confiscate my property to settle the judgement, wouldn’t they? Maybe not my homestead but everything else down to my skivvies.

    Oberlin is not a state institution so there’s none of that sweet sovereign immunity in play here. Why haven’t the Gibsons been awarded title to half of the Oberlin campus or whatever?

    1. SHG Post author

      Winning a judgment is one thing. Collecting a judgment is another. But here, Gibsons is in an unexplainable purgatory which reduces all of this to a farce.

      And it would be interesting to see Gibsons change the name on the sign as the little kids show for class.

  4. Orthodoc

    Ok, I am inviting a “you are not a lawyer so you don’t understand” smack down, but isn’t the comment “been required to mortgage virtually all of their equity in their home and rental properties to remain viable” not only irrelevant but harmful to the claim? I would have thought a $36m Zurich bond is an asset against which one could easily borrow many millions. Thus, saying “we deserve our money because we have no cash”, when there is plenty of accessible cash, may seem disingenuous. The Gibsons deserve their money because a court said they do, full stop.
    Ps too bad administrators were not personally held liable…

    1. SHG Post author

      I bet they would be happy to sell their judgment to you for a mere $34.5 million. Go for it.

      As for what they had to do to remain viable, it relates to exigency, something you docs never have to worry about.

    2. Rengit

      The Gibsons have probably racked up close to a million dollars, if not almost certainly more, in legal fees for what is now 5 years of protracted litigation and filings. Unless it’s a contingency fee arrangement (doubtful), the Gibsons owe money too; not as much as Oberlin, but still likely enough to put them in financial straits.

    3. Paleo

      The damages are, very broadly and simply, the difference between their cashflow before and their cashflow after, either multiplied by a common valuation multiple or projected into the future and discounted back to today.

      I’m not a lawyer either but I know how to value businesses.

      So poor performance now demonstrates the seriousness of the damages.

  5. Hunting Guy

    F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. “

  6. C. Dove

    This kinda stuff drives me nuts. I married an Obie. My blood uncle is also an Obie (technically, class of ’69).* Neither of them, I can safely say, would have tolerated this nonsense. Both spoke, more or less, fondly of Gibson’s. There was also the general appreciation for what Gipson’s had to tolerate in dealing with Obies, both fresh and stale.

    That the school has exhausted its legal options and is flat-out dodging its legal obligations to pay up is insane and disappointing. Yes, it’s easy to pin the tail on the woke donkey. The bigger issue is how badly this reflects on the college as an institution. If this entire case stands for anything, it is that the administration needs to take seriously its role as in loco parentis.

    * Uncle John went to Oberlin but dropped out shortly before graduating because, the story goes, he refused to complete his PE requirements. Then again, he was nearng the “summer of love,” so maybe the call of booty took greater precedence than whatever passed for PE at Oberlin at that time. I dunno. I wasn’t here. Decades later, he somehow convinced (badgered) Oberlin into agreeing that he could get his diploma by training for, and running in, the Boston Marathon. It was, naturally, all covered by the local NPR station in Boston, and, surprise surprise, It worked. (Decades late? Sure, but who’s really keeping track.) Huzzah?

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