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J & J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Patino

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division

May 24, 2017

J& J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC., as Broadcast Licensee of the September 14, 2013 The One: Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Saul Alvarez WBC Middleweight Championship Fight Program, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL PATINO, individually, and d/b/a Rock House Cafe & Gallery, Defendant.



         Presently before the Court is Plaintiff J& J Sports Productions, Inc.'s ("Plaintiff) "Motion for Final Default Judgment & Brief in Support" (ECF No. 9) ("Motion") filed in the above-captioned action on March 10, 2017. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit alleging that Defendant Michael Patino, individually, and d/b/a Rock House Cafe & Gallery, ("Defendant") violated the Federal Communications Act of 1934. Although Defendant was served with a summons in October 2016, to date, he has not answered Plaintiffs Complaint or otherwise appeared in this case. By its Motion, Plaintiff asks the Court to enter a default judgment against Defendant and award damages, costs, and attorneys' fees to Plaintiff. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS IN PART Plaintiffs Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is in the business of marketing and licensing commercial exhibitions of pay-per-view closed-circuit prizefight events.[1] In Texas, it has the exclusive authority to sublicense the telecast of the September 14, 2013 "The One": Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v. Saul Alvarez WBC Middleweight Championship Fight Program (the "Event") at closed-circuit commercial locations such as restaurants, bars, and lounges.[2] On September 14, 2013, the transmission of the Event originated via satellite and was electronically coded or "scrambled."[3]Broadcasts of the Event could only be exhibited in a commercial establishment if the establishment had entered into a contractual relationship with Plaintiff, [4] and thereby, obtained from Plaintiff the electronic decoding equipment and the satellite coordinates necessary to receive the signal.[5]

         On September 14, 2013, Defendant Michael Patino owned, operated, and supervised Rock House Cafe & Gallery (the "Establishment"), an El Paso, Texas commercial establishment that sells food and beverages (though not alcoholic drinks) to its patrons.[6] On that day, alleges Plaintiff, Defendant exhibited a telecast of the Event at his Establishment without Plaintiffs authorization; Defendant never contracted with Plaintiff or paid Plaintiff the requisite licensing fee.[7]

         On September 14, 2016, Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit against Defendant, charging him with illegally intercepting, receiving, and transmitting or publishing Plaintiffs telecast in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605, commonly known as the Federal Communications Act of 1934.[8]Id. at 4. Thereafter, on October 13, 2016, Plaintiff properly served Defendant with summons, thereby causing his answer to be due on November 3, 2016.[9] To date, Defendant has not answered to Plaintiffs Complaint in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12[10]or otherwise appeared in this case. On March 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed its "Request for Entry of Default" (ECF No. 8), and the Clerk of the Court entered default against Defendant pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(a)(1).[11] On the same day, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion.


         A. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 governs entry of default judgment. Initially, the clerk of the court must enter default against a defendant, if the defendant fails to plead or otherwise defend and the plaintiff shows that failure by affidavit or otherwise. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Thereafter, the plaintiff may move the court for a default judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b); see also N.Y.Life Ins. Co. v. Brown, 84 F.3d 137, 141 (5th Cir. 1996) ("After defendant's default has been entered, plaintiff may apply for a judgment based on such default. This is a default judgment" (emphasis added)). The court may grant the motion only if there is "a sufficient basis in the pleading for the [default] judgment." Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Hous. Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975). In addition to the complaint, the court, may consider evidence that "simply add[s] factual details [and thereby] fleshe[s] out [the plaintiffs] claim" or "serve[s] as further proof of the plaintiffs allegations. Woolen v. McDonald Trans. Assocs., Inc., 788 F.3d 490, 500 (5th Cir. 2015).

         In assessing whether the complaint contains a sufficient basis for a default judgment, the court applies the standard governing the sufficiency of a complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Wooten, 788 F.3d at 498 & n.3 ("Although most cases addressing Rule 8 arise in the context of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, ... we decline to import Rule 12 standards into the default-judgment context."). Rule 8 requires a pleading to contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The factual allegations in the complaint need only "be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); see also Nishimatsu Constr. Co., 515 F.2d at 1206 ("A default judgment [must be] supported by well-pleaded allegations, assumed to be true."). "[D]etailed factual allegations" are not required, but the complaint must present "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         Although a default judgment, which is a judgment on the merits, conclusively establishes the defendant's liability, it does not establish the amount of damages. United States ex rel. M-CO Constr., Inc. v. Shipco Gen., Inc., 814 F.2d 1011, 1014 (5th Cir. 1987). The complaint's factual allegations regarding damages, even if well-pleaded, must still be proven. See Id. Damages should not be awarded absent "a hearing or a demonstration by detailed affidavits establishing the necessary facts." United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5th Cir. 1979). Rule 55(b)(2)(B) "explicitly grants the district court wide latitude" on whether to hold or to "forego an evidentiary hearing" on the issue of damages. James v. Frame, 6 F.3d 307, 310 (5th Cir. 1993); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2)(B). A hearing is not necessary if "the amount claimed is a liquidated sum or one capable of mathematical calculation, "-i.e., "the amount is easily computable." Freeman, 605 F.2d at 857; Richardson v. Salvation Army, S. Territory, USA, 161 F.3d 7, 7, 1998 WL 723820, at *1 (5th Cir. 1998) (per curiam) (unpublished).

         B. The Federal Communication Act

         The Federal Communications Act (the FCA or Act) prohibits any unauthorized person from "intercept[ing] any radio communication and divulg[ing] or publish[ing] the existence, contents, substance, purport, effect, or meaning of such intercepted communication to any person." 47 U.S.C. § 605(a). The Act creates a private right of action for "[a]ny person aggrieved by any violation of [47 U.S.C. § 605(a)]." Id. § 605(e)(3)(A). To prevail on a claim for violations of § 605(a), a plaintiff must prove that a defendant "intercepted or otherwise unlawfully appropriated" the plaintiffs communication. DIRECTV Inc. v. Robson, 420 F.3d 532, 537 (5th Cir. 2005). The remedies and penalties for the violations include: actual or statutory damages, at the plaintiffs election; punitive damages; and costs, including attorneys' fees. 47 U.S.C. § 605(e).


         By its Motion, Plaintiff requests the Court to enter a default judgment in its favor and against Defendant. Plaintiff seeks statutory compensatory damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II), see Mot. ¶¶ 8, 14; statutory punitive damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii), id. ¶¶ 15, 21; and attorneys' fees and costs under 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii), id. ¶¶ 22, 23(3)-(4). Plaintiff also seeks post-judgment interest at the highest lawful rate. Id. ¶ 23(4). In support of its Motion, Plaintiff submitted three affidavits: (1) an affidavit by Luis Padilla, Plaintiffs auditor, who visited the Establishment on the night of the Event, see Padilla Aff., supra; (2) an affidavit by Thomas P. Riley, an attorney who was retained by Plaintiff to investigate Defendant's activities in connection with the Event, see Riley Aff., supra; and (3) an affidavit by David M. Diaz, an attorney who represents Plaintiff in this case, Diaz Aff., Mot., Ex. B, ECF No.9-1.

         As an initial matter, a "defendant, by his default, admits the plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations of fact, " but not "conclusions of law." Nishimatsu Constr. Co., 515 F.2d at 1206. Accordingly, in ruling on this Motion, where applicable, the Court will rely on well-pleaded facts in Plaintiff's Complaint, accepting them as admitted, and facts stated in the ...

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