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J&J Sports Productions Inc. v. Catsup Burger Bar

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

April 25, 2018

J&J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CATSUP BURGER BAR, individually and d/b/a KETCHUP BURGER BAR, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JANE J. BOYLE JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc.'s (J&J) Brief on the Appropriateness of Final Default Judgment. Doc. 37. For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS final default judgment in favor of Plaintiff.

         I. BACKGROUND

         J&J filed suit alleging that Catsup violated the Federal Communications Act of 1934 (FCA) by broadcasting the Manny Pacquiao v. Timothy Bradley Welterweight Championship Fight Program (the Event) without obtaining a sub-license from J&J, the only license company authorized to sub-license the telecast of the event. Doc. 1, Compl., ¶¶ 7, 11, 18. Catsup answered the complaint, Doc. 14, Answer, and participated in the parties' Rule 26(f) conference, Doc. 25, but has failed to further participate in the case. After the Court issued two orders to show cause, Doc. 30; Doc. 32, to which Catsup failed to respond, the Court set a show-cause hearing, Doc. 33. Catsup failed to attend the hearing. As a consequence, the Court entered a conditional order of default judgment as a sanction against Catsup. Doc. 36, Order. The Court ordered J&J to submit briefing explaining why default judgment was appropriate, whether there was sufficient basis in the pleadings for judgment, and evidence of damages and attorney's fees before the Court entered final default judgment. Id. at 3. J&J submitted its briefing so the issue is ripe for review.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         In determining whether a default judgment should be entered against a defendant, courts have developed a three-part analysis. United States v. 1998 Freightliner Vin #: 1FUYCZYB3WP886986, 548 F.Supp.2d 381, 384 (W.D. Tex. 2008). First, courts consider whether the entry of default judgment is procedurally warranted. See Lindsey v. Prive Corp., 161 F.3d 886, 893 (5th Cir. 1998). The factors relevant to this inquiry include:

[1] whether material issues of fact are at issue; [2] whether there has been substantial prejudice; [3] whether the grounds for default are clearly established; [4 ]whether the default was caused by a good faith mistake or excusable neglect; [5] the harshness of a default judgment; and [6] whether the court would think itself obliged to set aside the default on the defendant's motion.

Id.

         Second, courts assess the substantive merits of the plaintiff's claims and determine whether there is a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment. See Nishimatsu Constr. Co., Ltd. v. Hous. Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975) (noting that “default is not treated as an absolute confession by the defendant of his liability and of the plaintiff's right to recover”). In doing so, courts are to assume that due to its default, the defendant admits all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint. Id. However, a “defendant is not held to admit facts that are not-well pleaded or to admit conclusions of law.” Id.

         Third, courts determine “what form of relief, if any, the [plaintiff] should receive.” 1998 Freightliner, 548 F.Supp.2d at 384. Normally, damages are not to be awarded without a hearing or a demonstration by detailed affidavits establishing the necessary facts. See United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5th Cir. 1979). But if the amount of damages can be determined with mathematical calculation by reference to the pleadings and supporting documents, a hearing is unnecessary. James v. Frame, 6 F.3d 307, 310 (5th Cir. 1993).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Whether An Entry of Default Judgment is Procedurally Warranted

         J&J argues that default judgment is procedurally warranted because Catsup has failed to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this Court's orders, and Catsup's “lack of participation demonstrates an intention to no longer litigate the case.” Doc. 37, Pl.'s Br., 1. J&J notes that Catsup failed to participate in scheduling mediation or mediation itself; failed to respond, object, or assert any privileges to any of J&J's discovery requests; failed to respond to J&J's motion for summary judgment; failed to comply with the Court's orders to show cause; and failed to attend the Court's show-cause hearing. Id. at 2-3.

         The Court agrees that Catsup's lack of participation demonstrates that default judgment is procedurally warranted. First, although Catsup answered the complaint, its general denial of all of J&J's allegations does not create a material issue of fact. See Reese v. Anderson, 926 F.2d 494, 499 (5th Cir. 1991)(finding that a plaintiff's general denial of defendant's motion for summary judgment did not create a material issue of fact). Second, Catsup's “failure to respond threatens to bring the adversary process to a halt, effectively prejudicing Plaintiff's interests.” Ins. Co. of the W. v. H & G Contractors, Inc., No. C-10-390, 2011 WL 4738197, at *3 (S.D. Tex, Oct. 5, 2011). Third, the Court's issuance of conditional default judgment established grounds for default judgment under Rule 37(b)[1], see Doc. 36, Order, and Catsup has not responded to any part of the proceedings since December 2017 at the latest, see J.D. Holdings, LLC v. BD Ventures, LLC, 766 F.Supp.2d 109, 113 (D.D.C. 2011) (finding that “[d]efault judgment is appropriate if defendants are ‘totally unresponsive' and the failure to respond is ‘plainly willful, as reflected by [the parties'] failure to respond either to the summons and complaint, the entry of default, or the motion for default judgment'” (quoting Cumins Ins. Soc'y, Inc. v. Billups, No. 10-1478, 2010 WL 4384228, at *2 (D.D.C. Nov. 4, 2010))). Fourth, there is no evidence before the Court to suggest Catsup's silence is the result of a “good faith mistake or excusable neglect.” Lindsey, 161 F.3d at 893. Fifth, J&J seeks only the relief the law provides it, and Catsup has no applicable defense for its claims, at least as far as the Court can see, which “mitigat[es] the harshness of a default judgment.” John Perez Graphics & Design, LLC v. GreenTree Inv. Grp., Inc., No. 12-CV-4194-M, 2013 WL 1828671, at *3 (N.D. Tex. May 1, 2013). Sixth, and finally, the Court is not aware of any facts that would give rise to “good cause” to set aside the default, if it were challenged by Catsup. Lindsey, 161 F.3d at 893.

         B. Whether There Is a Sufficient Basis for Judgment in the Pleadings

         In light of the entry of default, Catsup is deemed to have admitted the allegations set forth in J&J's complaint. Nonetheless, the Court must review the pleadings to determine whether they present a sufficient basis for J&J's claim for relief. Nishimatsu Constr., 515 F.2d at 1206. In ...


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