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J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Mclaughlin

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

July 31, 2017

J&J Sports Productions, Inc., as Broadcast Licensee of the September 14, 2013 “The One” Floyd Mayweather Championship Fight Program Plaintiff,
v.
Tiffany M. McLaughlin, a/k/a Tiffany Michelle Mclaughlin, individually, and d/b/a VIP Sports Lounge a/k/a VIP Lounge a/k/a VIP Sports Bar & Lounge a/k/a World Famous Five Star Entertainment, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          GARY H. WILLER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the court is a motion for summary judgment filed by plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc. (“J&J”) against defendant Tiffany M. McLaughlin a/k/a Tiffany Michelle McLaughlin, individually, and d/b/a VIP Sports Lounge a/k/a VIP Lounge a/k/a VIP Sports Bar & Lounge a/k/a World Famous Five Star Entertainment (“McLaughlin”). Dkt. 11. McLaughlin did not respond to J&J's motion. Therefore, the court treats it as unopposed. S.D. Tex. L.R. 7.4. After considering the original complaint, motion, evidentiary record, and applicable law, the court is of the opinion that J&J's motion for summary judgment should be GRANTED IN PART & DENIED AS MOOT IN PART.

         I. Background

         On September 4, 2013, J&J bought the exclusive license to exhibit and sublicense the closed-circuit telecast of the September 14, 2013 “The One” Floyd Mayweather, Jr. V. Saul Alvarez, WBC Middleweight Championship Fight Program and accompanying undercard matches (the “Event”). Dkt. 11-1, Ex. A-1 at 1. J&J only authorized the closed-circuit broadcast of the Event to be exhibited in a commercial establishment if the establishment had a valid license agreement with J&J and paid the required licensing fee. Dkt. 11-1, Ex. A at 2, 3.

         McLaughlin owned and operated VIP Sports Bar & Lounge on the date of the Event. Dkt. 11-1, Ex. C at Response nos. 38-40 (deemed admissions by McLaughlin). VIP Sports Bar & Lounge is a commercial establishment and did not have a valid license agreement with J&J to exhibit the Event and did not pay J&J the required licensing fee. Dkt. 11-1, Ex. A-2 (affidavit of Nia Zambrano), Ex. C at Response nos. 13-14. On September 14, 2013, VIP Sports Bar & Lounge exhibited the Event. Dkt.11-1, at Ex. A-2, Ex. C at Response no. 12.

         J&J filed suit against McLaughlin on August 10, 2016, alleging that McLaughlin violated the Federal Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. §§ 553[1] or 605[2] (“FCA”), by unlawfully intercepting the interstate communication of the Event and exhibiting the Event to patrons at VIP Sports Bar & Lounge without paying the required sublicense fee. Dkt. 1. On October 7, 2017, McLaughlin was properly served with process. Dkt 6. McLaughlin's deadline to answer or otherwise respond was October 28, 2017. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a). On October 24, 2017, McLaughlin, pro se, filed an original answer to J&J's complaint denying every allegation. Dkt 5.

         McLaughlin retained counsel on January 5, 2017, and filed an amended answer on February 5, 2017, that denied all facts and claims stated in J&J's complaint except party identifications and jurisdictional allegations. Dkts. 8, 10.

         On February 2, 2017, J&J served McLaughlin with requests for admissions, to which McLaughlin did not respond. Dkt. 11-1, Ex. C, D. J&J now requests that the court grant summary judgment in its favor on its claim under §§ 553 or 605 of the FCA. As a result of the alleged violations, J&J seeks statutory damages, additional damages, attorneys' fees pursuant to §§ 553 and 605, and post judgment interest. Id.

         II. Legal Standard

         A court shall grant summary judgment when a “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “[A] fact is genuinely in dispute only if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Fordoche, Inc. v. Texaco, Inc., 463 F.3d 388, 392 (5th Cir. 2006). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). If the party meets its burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Envtl. Conservation Org. v. City of Dall., Tex., 529 F.3d 519, 524 (5th Cir. 2008).

         III. Analysis

         A. Liability Under § 605

         J&J has a private right of action to obtain statutory damages under § 605 because it had proprietary rights in exhibiting the Event. See § 605(d)(6), (e)(3)(C)(ii). Section 605 is a strict liability statute and only applies to unauthorized interceptions of signals through radio or satellite. Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. 152 Bronx, L.P., 11 F.Supp.3d 747, 753 (S.D. Tex. March 26, 2014); see J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Mandell Family Ventures, L.L.C., 751 F.3d 346, 351 (5th Cir. 2014). To establish liability under § 605, J&J must show that (1) the Event was exhibited in VIP Sports Bar & Lounge and (2) that J&J did not authorize the particular exhibition of the Event. J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Little Napoli, Inc., No. H-13-1237, 2014 WL 3667903, at *3 (S.D. Tex. July 22, 2014); Joe Hand Promotions, Inc., v. Lee, No. H-11-2904, 2012 WL 1909348, at *3 (S.D. Tex. May 24, 2012).

         To date, McLaughlin has not served J&J with any responses to J&J's requests for admissions. Thus, the admissions will be deemed admitted as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(a)(3); see also Hulsey v. Texas, 929 F.2d 168, 171 (5th Cir. 2008) (“[A] matter in a request for admissions is admitted unless the party to whom the request is directed answers or objects to the matter within 30 days.”). So, McLaughlin does not dispute that she intercepted and exhibited the Event in VIP Sports Bar & Lounge on September 14, 2013. Dkt. 11-1, Ex. A-2, Ex. C at Response nos. 11-12, 37. McLaughlin also does not dispute that she was unauthorized to exhibit the Event. Id. at Ex. C at Response nos. ...


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