Lee Plakas, the lawyer for the bakery, actually admitted that Oberlin didn’t commit the defamation, but “aided and abetted defamation, the same as one would in a crime.” Plakas told the jury, “If you’re an aider and abettor, whether it’s a crime or a civil wrong, then you have the same type of responsibility.” This is incorrect.There is no concept established in the law of “aiding and abetting defamation.” There is only defamation, which Oberlin clearly did not commit.
If, hypothetically, the protesters had falsely claimed that the owner yelled racial slurs and said black people were banned from the store (which obviously never happened), that would be a fact assertion potentially subject to a defamation claim.
Second, Oberlin was wrongly banned by the judge from presenting evidence of racism at Gibson’s Bakery, which if true would have nullified any defamation claim.
By contrast, the judge openly allowed numerous witnesses to testify that Gibson’s was not racist.
Third, Gibson’s Bakery sued Oberlin on the theory that it was aiding and abetting defamation.
Some opinions can cause serious harm, and some facts cause no harm.
The test of whether something is an opinion depends on whether it’s an opinion, not the level of harm.Gertsmann claimed that “calling Gibson’s racist and accusing it of engaging in racial profiling right after the incident with the three students is clearly accusing it of specific wrong-doing.” Once again, specificity and facts are two different categories.If the protesters claimed that arresting a black student was racist, that’s still their opinion about the facts in the case even though it’s an opinion about a specific event.They made accusations of past racism, but never presented any convincing evidence publicly. They hurt Gibson’s business by refusing to stand up on their behalf and by boycotting the bakery for a time.They tried to intimidate Gibson’s into dropping charges against the Oberlin students by threatening to continue their boycott, and even asked the bakery to call the college rather than the police when students shoplifted in the future.And the statement about “ a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION” is also a statement of opinion about a long period of time, but still opinion.