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J & J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Suarez Enterprises, LLC

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

January 13, 2020

J & J SPORTS PRODUCTION, INC, Plaintiff,
v.
SUAREZ ENTERPRISES, LLC d/b/a DON JULIO'S BAR AND GRILL a/k/a DON JULIO'S BAR AND GRILL, LLC, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          PETER G. SHERIDAN, U.S.D.J.

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff J&J Sports Production, Inc.'s ("Plaintiff or "J&J") motion for the entry of default judgment against Defendants Suarez Enterprises, LLC d/b/a Don Julio's Bar and Grill a/k/a Don Julio's Bar and Grill, LLC ("Don Julio's") and Pedro B. Urgiles ("Urgiles") (together, "Defendants"). (ECF No. 8). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, without authorization, broadcasted a May 2016 boxing match as to which Plaintiff had exclusive distribution rights. Defendants have not opposed this motion and pursuant to Local Civil Rule 78.1, this motion is decided without oral argument. For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's motion is granted.

         Background

         Plaintiff is a closed-circuit distributor of sports and entertainment programming. (Plaintiff's Affidavit in Support of its Motion for the Entry of Default Judgment ("Pl. Aff.") ¶ 3, ECF No. 8-1). Plaintiff purchased by contract the domestic commercial distribution rights to broadcast the Saul Alvarez v. Amir Khan, WBC World Middleweight Championship Fight Program (the "Program"), telecasted on May 7, 2016. (Moving Br. at 1, ECF No. 8-3; Pl. Aff., Ex. A). Pursuant to Plaintiff's contract, Plaintiff was permitted to enter into sub-licensing agreements with various commercial establishments seeking to show the Program to its patrons. (Id.). The transmission of the Program was encrypted and made available only to Plaintiff's customers, or commercial locations that paid Plaintiff a fee to show the Program. (Id. at 1-2; see also Pl. Aff. ¶ 11). Don Julio's is a bar and grill located at 900 Liberty Street, Trenton, New Jersey 08611. (Id. at 2).

         In this action, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants unlawfully intercepted and broadcasted the Program at Don Julio's for its patrons, contrary to the Communications Act of 1934, 47 U.S.C. §§ 605 and 553 (Counts I, II). (Complaint at 6-8, ECF No. 1). Plaintiff also asserts several common law causes of action in connection with Defendants' alleged piracy of the Program (Counts III-VI).[1] (Id. at 8-11).

         In support of its allegations, Plaintiff submits, inter alia, the affidavit of Kevin Goldberg, an investigator retained by Plaintiff to monitor the unlawful broadcast of the Program in the area. (See Pl. Aff., Ex. B). Mr. Goldberg attests to having witnessed the Program being unlawfully broadcasted on one of the four television at Don Julio's on the subject date. (Id.). While Don Julio's has a capacity of approximately 150 patrons, Mr. Goldberg witnessed only approximately 50 patrons present during the Program. (Id.). Further, Mr. Goldberg certifies that Don Julio's did not charge a cover fee to enter the bar and view the Program. (Id.).

         Plaintiff filed its Complaint in this matter on May 4, 2018. (ECF No. 1). Defendants were served with the Complaint and Summons on July 30, 2018 and July 31, 2018. (ECF No. 4). After Defendants failed to respond, on January 22, 2019, Plaintiff requested the entry of default, which was granted and entered by the Clerk of Court on January 23, 2019. (ECF Nos. 6, 7). Plaintiff filed the instant motion for the entry of a default judgment on December 18, 2019. (ECF No. 8). Plaintiff is seeking damages totaling $27, 100, and an opportunity to file a separate application for costs and attorneys' fees. The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         Legal Standards

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55 governs the entry of default and default judgments. Under Rule 55(a), "[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk must enter the party's default." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Thereafter, the movant can apply to the court for a default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). "The threshold issue in opening a default judgment is whether a meritorious defense has been asserted." Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1181 (3d Cir. 1984). "[A] meritorious defense is presumptively established when the 'allegations of defendant's answer, if established on trial would constitute a complete defense to the action.'" Id. (citation omitted).

         When considering a motion for default judgment, a court must exercise sound judicial discretion. See Harad v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 839 F.2d 979, 982 (3d Cir. 1988). The Third Circuit has identified three factors courts should consider when weighing whether to enter a default judgment: "(1) whether the party subject to default has a meritorious defense, (2) the prejudice suffered by the party seeking default, and (3) the culpability of the party subject to default." See Doug Brady, Inc. v. N.J. Bldg. Laborers State Wide Funds, 250 F.R.D. 171, 177 (D.N.J. 2008) (citing Emcasco Ins. Co. v. Sambrick, 834 F.2d 71, 73 (3d Cir. 1987)). The ultimate decision whether to enter default judgment in any given case "is left primarily to the discretion of the district court." United States v. Cardona, No. CIV. A. 09-374 (JAG), 2009 WL 2381758, at *1 (D.N.J. July 31, 2009) (collecting cases).

         Moreover, "[d]efault establishes the defaulting party's liability for the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint." Pflugfeder v. Burns, No. CV 16-1963 (JBS-AMD), 2016 WL 6561555, at *l (D.N.J. Nov. 2, 2016) (citations omitted). Default does not, however, establish liability for the amount of damages claimed by the plaintiff. Flaks v. Koegel, 504 F.2d 702, 707 (2d Cir.1974) ("While a default judgment constitutes an admission of liability, the quantum of damages remains to be established by proof unless the amount is liquidated or susceptible of mathematical computation."). "The district court must instead conduct an inquiry in order to ascertain the amount of damages with reasonable certainty." Credit Lyonnais Sees. (USA), Inc. v. Alcantara, 183 F.3d 151, 155 (2d Cir.1999). "Courts have wide discretion in determining appropriate statutory damage awards." Innovative Sports Mgmt., Inc. v. Perez, No. CV 19-12849 (SRC), 2019 WL 6167954, at *4 (D.N.J. Nov. 20, 2019) (citing Broad. Music, Inc. v. Crocodile Rock Corp., 634 Fed.Appx. 884, 885 (3d Cir. 2015); see also Jones v. Winnepesaukee Realty, 990 F.2d 1, 4 (1st Cir.1993).

         In determining the amount of damages, the district court may conduct a hearing pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2).[2] The court is not required to do so, however, "as long as it ensure[s] that there [is] a basis for the damages specified in the default judgment." Transatlantic Marine Claims Agency, Inc. v. Ace Shipping Corp., 109 F.3d 105, 111 (2d Cir.1997).

         Analysis

         The threshold requirements for entry of a default judgment are met. As discussed above, the Court has jurisdiction over this action because Plaintiff asserts claims arising under federal law (see 28 U.S.C. § 1331; 28 U.S.C. § 1367); service of process was properly effectuated (see ECF No. 4); no Defendant has answered or otherwise responded to the Complaint; and default has been entered by the Clerk against Defendants. Joe ...


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