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J&J Sports Productions Inc. v. Infiniti of Rock Hill Corp.

United States District Court, District of South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

April 3, 2015

J&J Sports Productions, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
Infiniti of Rock Hill Corp. d/b/a Infinity Sports Bar, Michelle Judge a/k/a Michelle J. Obley, Ebony Monique McMullen, and Ashia Nikkita Strong, Defendants.

ORDER FOR JUDGMENT BY DEFAULT

Plaintiff, J&J Sports Productions, Inc. ("Plaintiff"), which had exclusive, nationwide commercial television distribution rights to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v. Miguel Cotto, WBA Super World Light Middleweight Championship Fight Program, ("the Program"), sued Infiniti of Rock Hill Corp. d/b/a Infinity Sports Bar, Michelle Judge (a/k/a Michelle J. Obley), Ebony Monique McMullen, and Ashia Nikkita Strong (collectively "Defendants") for exhibiting the May 5, 2012, commercial broadcast of the Program, which included under-card bouts and commentary, without paying the required licensing fee to Plaintiff. Plaintiff's Complaint included causes of action brought pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 605 ("Communications Act") and 47 U.S.C. § 553 ("Cable & Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act"), as well as a state law claim for conversion. Although Defendants were properly served with the Complaint, Defendants have not answered or filed any responsive pleading. Pursuant to Plaintiff's request, the Clerk of Court entered default against Defendants (ECF No. 10), and Plaintiff then moved for default judgment and an award of attorneys' fees and other costs. (ECF No. 17.)

I. Introduction

Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants on April 30, 2014, and it filed an Amended Complaint on June 17, 2014. This action seeks an award of statutory damages, enhanced damages, attorneys' fees and costs, as well as compensatory and punitive damages based on the unlicensed broadcast of the Program. (ECF No. 1.)

A. Jurisdiction and Venue

The court has subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. (Id. at 1 ¶ 2.) The court has personal jurisdiction over Defendants, and venue in this District is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391 because Defendants are South Carolina residents or conduct, or conducted, business in this district, and because the alleged wrongful acts occurred in this District. (Id. at 1-2 ¶¶ 3, 4.)

B. Process and Service

On June 21, 2014, Plaintiff's private process server served Defendant Judge, individually and as Registered Agent of Defendant Infiniti of Rock Hill Corp. (ECF No. 7.) On May 12, 2014, Plaintiff’s private process server also served Defendant Strong. (ECF No. 7.) On August 26, 2014, the York County Sheriff’s Office served Defendant McMullen. (ECF No. 13.)

C. Grounds for Entry of Default

Defendants did not timely file an answer or other pleading, as reflected by two Affidavits of Default and two Affidavits of Plaintiff's Counsel in Support of Request for Entry of Default, one set filed on August 14, 2014, with regard to Defendant Infiniti of Rock Hill Corp., Defendant Judge and Defendant Strong (ECF Nos. 9-1, 9-2), and one set filed on September 15, 2014, with regard to Defendant McMullen. (ECF Nos. 14-1, 14-2.) The Clerk of Court properly entered default as to Defendants Infiniti of Rock Hill Corp., Judge, and Strong on August 14, 2014 (ECF No. 10), and as to Defendant McMullen on September 16, 2014. (ECF No. 15.) On October 10, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Motion and Motion for Default Judgment, a copy of which it also served upon Defendants by mail on said date. (ECF No. 17.)

II. Findings of Fact

Having reviewed Plaintiff's Complaint, Answers to Local Rule 26.01 Interrogatories, Request for Entry of Default, Motion for Default Judgment, as well as all supporting and supplemental information provided, the court accepts Plaintiff's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and makes the following factual findings. See DIRECTV, Inc. v. Rawlins, 523 F.3d 318, 322 n.1 (4th Cir. 2009) (accepting plaintiff's allegations against defaulting defendant as true, noting a defaulting defendant "admits the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations of fact, is concluded on those facts by the judgment, and is barred from contesting on appeal the facts thus established.") (quoting Ryan v. Homecomings Fin. Network, 253 F.3D 778, 780 (4th Cir. 2001)).

Plaintiff is a California corporation with its principal place of business in Campbell, California. (ECF No. 1 at 2 ¶ 5.) Defendant Infiniti of Rock Hill Corp. d/b/a Infinity Sports Bar is a South Carolina corporation with its principal place of business in Rock Hill, South Carolina. (Id. at 2 ¶ 6.) Defendants Judge, McMullen, and Strong reside in South Carolina and do (or did) conduct business as a representative of Defendant Infiniti of Rock Hill Corp., located at 1460 East Main Street, Rock Hill, SC 29730. (Id. at 2 ¶¶ 6, 9.)

Relevant to this litigation, Plaintiff paid for, and was granted, the exclusive nationwide commercial television distribution rights to the Program. (Id. at 3 ¶ 13.) Plaintiff contracted with and granted certain businesses the rights to exhibit publicly the Program to its customers within their commercial establishments. (Id. at 3 ¶ 14.) Plaintiff expended substantial money in marketing, advertising, administering and transmitting the Program to such businesses. (Id. at 3 ¶ 15.) As alleged by Plaintiff in its Amended Complaint, Defendant Judge, Defendant Strong, and Defendant McMullen were present during the broadcast and committed, directly or indirectly, the misconduct, had dominion, control, oversight, and management authority over the establishment known as Infinity Sports Bar, and had an obvious and direct financial interest in the misconduct. (ECF No. 5 at 4 ¶ 20.)

III. Analysis

Having found the facts set forth in Plaintiff's Complaint as deemed admitted by default, the court must ensure the Complaint sets forth a proper claim before entering default judgment. See GlobalSantaFe Corp. v. Globalsantafe.com, 250 F.Supp.2d 610, 612 n.3 (E.D. Va. 2003) (considering facts and evaluating Plaintiff's claims prior to entry of default judgment in copyright action). The court considers whether Plaintiff has set forth claims for which relief can be granted pursuant to the standard of Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

A. Election of Remedies

In its Motion for Default Judgment and accompanying memorandum, Plaintiff submits that it has established liability pursuant to 47 U.S.C. ยงยง 605 and 553; and because the two statutory schemes provide relief for the alternate means by which the Program might have been ...


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