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J & J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Palmer

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division

July 2, 2018

J & J Sports Productions, Inc., Plaintiff,
BRENDA D. PALMER, d/b/a A'S SPORTS BAR, Defendant.



         Defendant showed a boxing match in her night club on September 13, 2014, without first obtaining Plaintiff's permission. In response, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, alleging violations of federal law and requesting $110, 000 in damages. Defendant has not appeared, and Plaintiff seeks a default judgment. Plaintiff's motion (doc. 10) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff is "a commercial distributor of sporting events . . . ." (Doc. 1 ¶ 9.) As such, it held the "exclusive nationwide television distribution rights" to a September 13, 2014, boxing match between "Mayhem" Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Marcos Rene Maidana, II. (Id. ¶ 7.) Businesses could not show the fight without purchasing the rights to do so from Plaintiff. (See id. ¶¶ 7-10.)

         Plaintiff alleges that in September 2014 Defendant "was an owner and/or a controlling manager" of A's Sports Bar, located on Peach Orchard Road in Augusta, Georgia. (Id. ¶ 6.) On the night of the Mayweather-Maidana fight, Plaintiff sent an investigator to A's Sports Bar. (See Doc. 10-2 at 14-16.) While inside the bar, the investigator witnessed the fight playing on five televisions. (Id. at 14.) According to the investigator, A's Sports Bar holds roughly 100 people. (Id. at 15.)

         Because Defendant was not authorized to show the fight at A's Sports Bar, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit, asserting claims under 47 U.S.C. § 553 and 47 U.S.C. § 605. Plaintiff served Defendant, but Defendant has failed to appear in this action or respond to the complaint. (See Doc. 8.) Plaintiff moved for Clerk's entry of default, which the Clerk entered on April 30, 2018. (Docs. 8, 9.) Plaintiff now moves for default judgment. (Doc. 10.)

         II. Discussion

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, a court may enter default judgment against a defendant when (1) both subject-matter and personal jurisdiction exist, (2) the allegations in the complaint state a claim against the defendant, and (3) the plaintiff has shown the damages to which it is entitled. See Pitts ex rel. Pitts v. Seneca Sports, Inc., 321 F.Supp.2d 1353, 1356-58 (S.D. Ga. 2004).

         "[A] defendant's default does not in itself warrant the court in entering a default judgment.'' Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975). Default judgment is warranted only "when there is a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment entered." Surtain v. Hamlin Terrace Found., 789 F.3d 1239, 1245 (11th Cir. 2015) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). And although a "defaulted defendant is deemed to admit the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact, he is not held to admit facts that are not well-pleaded or to admit conclusions of law." Id. (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted) . The upshot of this standard is that "a motion for default judgment is like a reverse motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Id. Thus, when evaluating a motion for default judgment, a court must look to see whether the "complaint contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         A. Jurisdiction

         Before entering default judgment, a court must ensure that it has subject-matter jurisdiction over the case and personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Here, the Court has both. Because Plaintiff's claims arise under federal law, the Court has federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. And because Defendant resides in Georgia, the Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendant.

         B. Liability

         Plaintiff asserts claims under 47 U.S.C. § 553 and 47 U.S.C. § 605, which prohibit the interception of cable and satellite programming. Although the Eleventh Circuit has not yet addressed the issue, other courts, including district courts in the Eleventh Circuit, have concluded that plaintiffs may not recover under both § 605 and § 553 for the same conduct. TKR Cable Co. v. Cable City Corp., 267 F.3d 196, 207 (3d Cir. 2001); United States v. Norris, 88 F.3d 462, 465-69 (7th Cir. 1996); J & J Sports Prods., Inc v. WB-Diversified Auto Servs., Inc., No. 1:15-cv-2171-WSD, 2016 WL 264935, at *2 (N.D.Ga. Jan. 21, 2016). Rather, according to these courts, "[§] 605 prohibits commercial establishments from intercepting and broadcasting satellite programming, while [§] 553 addresses interceptions that occur through a cable network." J & J Sports Prods., 2016 WL 269435, at *2. Like those courts, this Court concludes a plaintiff may not recover under both statutes.

         Plaintiff does not specify in its complaint whether Plaintiff obtained and showed the fight through cable or satellite transmission. However, because the elements of a claim under § 605 and § 553 are the same, the Court will "giv[e] Plaintiff the benefit of the doubt" and will "not fault [] Plaintiff for failing to plead the particular manner of interception since this may be exclusively in Defendant['s] knowledge." Id. at *3 (alterations in original) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). To succeed on a claim under either statute, a plaintiff must show (1) that the defendant "intercepted the program," (2) that the defendant "did not pay for the right to receive the transmission," and (3) that the defendant "displayed the ...

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