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J&J Sports Productions, Inc v. Salvatore Gencarelli and Gencarelli's Pizzeria & Restaurant

March 28, 2011

J&J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SALVATORE GENCARELLI AND GENCARELLI'S PIZZERIA & RESTAURANT, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Walls, Senior District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc. moves for default judgment against the defendants Salvatore Gencarelli and Gencarelli's Pizzeria & Restaurant, Inc. Both defendants have failed to appear. The plaintiff requests that the Court award statutory damages, enhanced damages and attorneys' fees and costs. Defendants have not opposed this motion and pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78, the motion is decided without oral argument. The motion is granted.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

J&J Sports Productions, Inc., a California corporation located in California, alleges that it was granted the right to distribute the entire television broadcast of the Mayweather v. Mosley boxing match on May 1, 2010. According to the complaint, defendant Gencarelli's Pizzeria & Restaurant, Inc. operates a business incorporated and licensed in the State of New Jersey and located in Newark. Defendant Salvatore Gencarelli is an officer, director, shareholder and/or principal of the business. J&J alleges that the defendants willfully intercepted and broadcast the boxing match at their commercial establishment without authorization from J&J in violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605(a) (unauthorized interception and publication of radio communications) or 47 U.S.C. § 553(a) (unauthorized interception of communications offered over a cable system).

In September 2010, J&J sued the defendants. Both defendants were properly served on October 13, 2010, but have failed to appear. The Clerk of the Court entered default against both defendants in November 2010 and now J&J seeks a default judgment.

LEGAL STANDARD

When a defendant fails to appear, a district court is authorized to enter a default judgment based solely on the fact that the default has occurred. Anchorage Assocs. v. Virgin Is. Bd. of Tax Review, 922 F.2d 168, 177 n.9 (3d Cir. 1990). When deciding a motion for default judgment, a court should accept as true the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint. Ramada Worldwide, Inc. v. Benton Harbor Hari Ohm, L.L.C., Civ. No. 05-3452, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63600, at *13 (D.N.J. July 31, 2008); Days Inn Worldwide, Inc. v. Mayu & Roshan, LLC, Civ. No. 06-1581, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41997, at *8 (D.N.J. June 8, 2007). However, a court must make "an independent inquiry into whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate cause of action" and "must make an independent determination" regarding questions of law. Days Inn, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41997, at *11. Moreover, a court does not accept as true allegations pertaining to the amount of damages, and may employ various methods to ascertain the amount of damages due, including calculation based on figures contained in documentary evidence or affidavits. Ramada, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63600, at *13-14; Days Inn, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41997, at *15-17.

DISCUSSION

A.Default Judgment

The grant of default judgment is largely a matter of judicial discretion. Though, that "discretion is not without limits," and there is a "preference that cases be disposed of on the merits whenever practicable." Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180, 1181 (3d Cir. 1984) (citations omitted).

Before granting a default judgment, the Court is obliged to consider three factors: (1) whether plaintiff will be prejudiced if default is not granted, (2) whether defendant has a meritorious defense, and (3) whether defendant's delay was the result of culpable misconduct. Days Inns, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41997, at *9.

Because the defendants have not appeared, the Court is not in a position to determine whether they have a meritorious defense or whether any delay is due to culpable misconduct. See id. As for prejudice to the plaintiff, if default is not entered, it will have "no other means of vindicating its claim against the defendants." Id. (citation omitted). Consequently, the factors weigh in favor of granting default judgment.

B.Cause of Action Under 47 U.S.C. § 605 or § 553

In its complaint, J&J seeks relief under 47 U.S.C. § 605 or, alternatively, 47 U.S.C. § 553. Both statutes prohibit the unauthorized interception and exhibition of communications. The common elements of both statutes require the plaintiff to show that the defendants intercepted a broadcast, defendants were not authorized to intercept the broadcast, and defendants showed this broadcast to others. §§ 553, 605. Both statutes allow enhanced damages if the ...


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