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Joe Hand Promotions Inc. v. Leech

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

July 15, 2019

JOE HAND PROMOTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CYNTHIA LEECH, d/b/a LINDA'S LOUNGE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JANE J. BOYLE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Joe Hand Promotions, Inc.'s (Joe Hand) Motion for Final Default Judgment (Doc. 10), filed on May 22, 2019. For the reasons provided below, the Motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is an anti-piracy case brought under the Federal Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 553 and 605, (FCA). Joe Hand markets and licenses closed-circuit, pay-per-view prizefighting events to commercial establishments. Doc. 11-2, Ex. B, Aff. Of Joe Hand, Jr. (Hand Aff.) ¶ 4. Joe Hand purchased and retained the commercial exhibition rights to the November 21, 2015 Miguel Cotto vs. Canelo Alvarez broadcast, including all undercard bouts and the main prizefight (hereinafter the “Event”). Id. Thereafter, Joe Hand marketed sub-licensing (commercial exhibition) rights for the Event to its commercial customers, including casinos, racetracks, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, for a fee. Id. To prevent unlicensed establishments from exhibiting the Event without a license, the transmission was electronically coded or “scrambled.” Doc. 10, Mot. for Default J. ¶ 9(f). Establishments that had bought the broadcast rights were authorized by Plaintiff to receive the Event. Id. On November 21, 2015, Cynthia Leech, d/b/a Linda's Lounge, broadcasted the Event at her establishment, Linda's Lounge, without receiving the contractual authorization from Joe Hand or paying the fee required to do so. Id. ¶ 9(h).

         On November 19, 2018, Joe Hand filed its Complaint, alleging that Defendant willfully violated the FCA for commercial gain. Doc. 1, Pl.'s Original Compl. It asks for statutory damages under the FCA, costs, attorney's fees, and interest. Id. ¶ 17. Although Defendant was served with process on December 10, 2018, she failed to answer or otherwise respond by the appropriate deadline. Doc. 5, Summons Returned Executed. Accordingly, Joe Hand requested an entry of default, which the Clerk of Court entered on February 12, 2019. Doc. 8, Clerk's Entry of Default. On May 22, 2019, Joe Hand moved for default judgment. Doc. 10, Mot. for Default J. To date, Defendant has not made an appearance in this case.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 55 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, federal courts have the authority to enter a default judgment against a defendant who has failed to plead or otherwise defend upon motion of the plaintiff. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a)-(b). That being said, “[d]efault judgments are a drastic remedy, not favored by the Federal Rules and resorted to by courts only in extreme situations.” Sun Bank of Ocala v. Pelican Homestead & Sav. Ass'n, 874 F.2d 274, 276 (5th Cir. 1989). A party is not entitled to a default judgment merely because the defendant is technically in default. Ganther v. Ingle, 75 F.3d 207, 212 (5th Cir. 1996). “Rather, a default judgment is generally committed to the discretion of the district court.” United States v. 1998 Freightliner Vin #: 1FUYCZYB3WP886986, 548 F.Supp.2d 381, 384 (W.D. Tex. 2008) (citing Mason v. Lister, 562 F.2d 343, 345 (5th Cir. 1977)).

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

[1] whether material issues of fact exist; [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. Houston 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 this, courts should assume that, due to its default, the defendant admits all well-pleaded facts in the plaintiff's complaint. Id. But 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. See, e.g., 1998 Freightliner Vin #: 1FUYCZYB3WP886986, 548 F.Supp.2d at 384. Normally, courts should not award damages without a hearing, unless detailed affidavits establish the necessary facts. See United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5th Cir. 1979). But if the court can determine the amount of damages with mathematical calculation, by referencing the pleadings and supporting documents, a hearing is unnecessary. James v. Frame, 6 F.3d 307, 310 (5th Cir. 1993).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Applying this three-part analysis, the Court ultimately concludes that a default judgment is (1) procedurally warranted; (2) supported by a sufficient factual basis in Joe Hand's Complaint; (3) and that, because the Court can determine the amount of damages with mathematical calculation by referencing information in the pleadings and supporting documents, a hearing is unnecessary. See James, 6 F.3d at 310. Thus, as explained below, Joe Hand is entitled to a default judgment against Defendant for her alleged FCA violations in the amount of $20, 000 in statutory violations, plus $2, 275 in attorney's fees and costs of court.

         A. Whether An Entry of Default Judgment Is ...


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