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Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Singleton

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

June 20, 2018

JOE HAND PROMOTIONS, INC. as Broadcast Licensee of the November 21, 2015 Cotto/Canelo Program, Plaintiff,
v.
HOWARD SINGLETON a/k/a HOWARD MEDLEY, Individually, and d/b/a MEDLEY'S JAZZ RESTAURANT, a/k/a MEDLEY'S JAZZ BAR, Defendant.

          OPINION

          JOHN MICHAEL VAZQUEZ, U.S.D. JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This case concerns a bar's improper use of a satellite signal to broadcast a boxing match. Currently pending before the Court is the motion of Plaintiff Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. ("Plaintiff') for default judgment against Defendant Howard Singleton doing business as Medley's Jazz Bar ("Defendant") under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b). D.E. 9. The Court reviewed all submissions made in support of the motion, which was unopposed, and considered the motion without oral argument pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78 and Local Civil Rule 78.1 (b). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs motion is GRANTED.

         II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff was authorized by contract to display a boxing match between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez ("Program"), on November 21, 2015, via closed circuit television and encrypted satellite signal. D.E. 1, "Compl." at ¶ 18. Under this contract, the event would originate via satellite uplink and be retransmitted to cable systems and satellite companies through a satellite signal. Id. Plaintiff subsequently entered into agreements with other entities to display the Program. Id. at ¶ 19. Any entity who wished to display the Program was required to obtain a license from Plaintiff. Affidavit of Joe Hand, Jr., D.E. 9-1, hereinafter "PI. Aff." at ¶ 3.

         Defendant Howard Singleton operates Medley's Jazz Bar (the "Establishment") located in Linden, New Jersey. Compl. at ¶ 7. The Establishment has an estimated capacity of 50-100 patrons. Id. at ¶ 15. Singleton had supervisory capacity and control over the Establishment. Id. at ¶ 8. On the day of the Program, Plaintiff retained auditors to identify locations which were unlawfully showing the Program. PI. Aff. at ¶ 4. The Establishment showed the Program, without Plaintiffs authorization or license, by descrambling and intercepting Plaintiffs signal. Compl. at ¶ 21; see also Ex. C-D to PI. Aff.

         Singleton was present when the Establishment showed the Program. Id. at ¶¶ 11-12. Singleton had also advertised the Program at the Establishment and increased food and drink prices during the Program. Id. at ¶¶ 13-14. The illegal interception of Plaintiffs signal could be accomplished in three ways: (1) using an illegal satellite receiver; (2) misrepresenting its business as a residence; or (3) taking a legitimate receiver from a home to the business. Id. Through its trickery, the Establishment was able to realize increased revenues without properly compensating Plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 29.

         Plaintiff filed its Complaint on December 27, 2017. D.E. 1. Defendant was served personally on March 23, 2018, and proof of service was then filed with the Court. D.E. 5. On April 16, 2018, Plaintiff filed its motion for Entry of Default. D.E. 8, ("Stat. Rept."). The default was entered the next day. Defendant Singleton contacted Plaintiff and indicated that he would file an answer upon retaining an attorney. Id. However, Singleton has not appeared or filed an answer. Id. In this motion for default judgment, Plaintiff seeks damages for a violation of the Piracy Statutes of the Federal Communications Act. Specifically, Plaintiff requests $5, 000 in statutory damages pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 6O5(e)(3)(C)(i)(II), as well as $10, 000 in statutory damages pursuant to § 6O5(e)(3)(C)(ii). Plaintiff also requests $3, 388.50 in attorneys' fees pursuant to § 6O5(e)(3)(B)(iii). PI. Aff. at ¶¶ 2-A; Compl. at ¶¶ 26-27.

         III. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         In a motion for a default judgment, all factual allegations are taken as true with the exception of damages. Teamsters Pension Fund of Phila. & Vicinity v. Am. Helper, Inc., 2011 WL 4729023, at *2 (D.N.J. Oct. 5, 2011) (quoting DIRECTV, Inc. v. Pepe, 431 F.3d 162, 165 & n.6 (3d Cir. 2005)). However, the Third Circuit has emphasized that cases should be decided on the merits whenever possible. Chanel, Inc. v. Gordashevsky, 558 F.Supp.2d 532, 535 (D.N.J. 2008) (quoting Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1181 (3d Cir. 1984)). Therefore, there are prerequisites which must be met before a default judgment is entered. A court must be satisfied that it has jurisdiction over both the subject matter and the parties; that the defendant was properly served; that the complaint states a sufficient cause of action; and that plaintiff has proven damages. Moroccanoil, Inc. v. JMG Freight Grp. LLC, 2015 WL 6673839, at *1 (D.N.J. Oct. 30, 2015). Upon meeting these prerequisites, the court will consider (1) prejudice to the plaintiff if the default judgment is not granted; (2) whether defendant has a viable defense; and (3) whether defendant is culpable for his or her delay. Chamberlain v. Giampapa, 210 F.3d 154, 164 (3d Cir. 2000); see also Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Starlight Ballroom Dance Club, Inc., 175 Fed.Appx. 519, 522 (3d Cir. 2006).

         B. Jurisdiction

         i. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Before entering a default judgment, the court must determine that it has subject matter jurisdiction. HICA Educ. Loan Corp. v. Surikov, 2015 WL 273656, at *2 (D.N.J. Jan. 22, 2015) (quoting Ramada Worldwide, Inc. v. Benton Harbor Hari Ohm, L.L.C., 2008 WL 2967067, at *9 (D.N.J. July 31, 2008)). Here, the Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 1331, which states that the district courts have original jurisdiction over all cases arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States. Plaintiff has invoked the laws of the United States by ...


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