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J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Ultimate Jet-A-Way Sportsbar & Lounge, Inc.

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division

October 31, 2017

J&J Sports Productions, Inc., Plaintiff,
v.
Ultimate Jet-A-Way Sportsbar & Lounge, Inc., and La'Tanya T. Epps, Defendants.

          ORDER FOR JUDGMENT BY DEFAULT AGAINST ULTIMATE JET-A-WAY SPORTSBAR & LOUNGE, INC.

          R. Bryan Harwell, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff, J&J Sports Productions, Inc. (“Plaintiff”), which had exclusive, nationwide commercial television distribution rights to “Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v. Marcos Rene Maidana WBC Welterweight Championship Fight Program, ” (“the Program”), sued Ultimate Jet-A-Way Sportsbar & Lounge, Inc., and La'Tanya T. Epps (“Defendants”) for exhibiting the May 3, 2014 commercial broadcast of the Program, which included under-card bouts and commentary, at 55 N. Williamsburg County Highway, Kingstree, South Carolina 29556, 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 Defendant Ultimate Jet-A-Way Sportsbar & Lounge, Inc. (“Defendant Ultimate”) was properly served with the Complaint, it has not answered or filed any responsive pleading. Pursuant to Plaintiff's request for Entry of Default (ECF No. 8), the Clerk of Court entered a default against the Defendants (ECF No. 9), and Plaintiff then moved for a default judgment and award of attorneys' fees and other costs. (ECF No. 12.) Defendant La'Tanya T. Epps (“Defendant Epps”) served and filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint (ECF No. 6.), and she is not in default. This Order is not directed to Defendant Epps.

         The court finds that, with regard to Defendant Ultimate, there is no need for an evidentiary hearing and that a decision is properly reached on the basis of the uncontested pleadings and detailed affidavits submitted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2) (“the court may conduct hearings . . . when, to enter or effectuate judgment, it needs to: (A) conduct an accounting; (B) determine the amount of damages; (C) establish the truth of any allegation by evidence; or (D) investigate any other matter.”); Anderson v. Found. For Advancement Educ. & Emp't of Am. Indians, 155 F.3d 500, 507 (4th Cir. 1998) (“ . . . in some circumstances a district court entering a default judgment may award damages ascertainable from the pleadings without holding a hearing.”) If the defendant does not contest the amount pled in the complaint and the claim is for a sum that is certain or easily computable, the judgment can be entered for that amount without further hearing. JTH Tax, Inc. v. Smith, No. 2:06cv76, 2006 WL 1982762, at *2 (E.D. Va. June 23, 2006). The court has reviewed Plaintiff's submissions, and has determined that they adequately support Plaintiff's claims and provide a reasonable basis upon which to rest an award of damages that is easily computable.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendants on April 21, 2017. 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. 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 they are, or were doing business in this District, and because the alleged wrongful acts occurred in this District.

         B. Process and Service

         On April 25, 2017, Plaintiff's private process server served La'Tanya T. Epps individually and as Registered Agent of Ultimate Jet-A-Way Sportsbar & Lounge (ECF No. 5-1.)

         C. Grounds for Entry of Default

         Defendant Ultimate did not timely file an answer or other pleading, as reflected by Affidavit of Default (ECF No. 8-1) and Affidavit of Plaintiff's Counsel in Support of Request for Entry of Default, with regard to Defendant Ultimate. (ECF No. 8-2.) The Clerk of Court properly entered default as to Defendant Ultimate on July 19, 2017. (ECF No. 9.)

         D. Motion for Default Judgment

         On August 31, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Notice of Motion and Motion for Default Judgment, a copy of which was served upon Defendants by mail on said date. (ECF No. 12.)

         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-pled 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 limited liability company with its principal place of business in Campbell, California. (ECF No.1 at ¶5.) Defendant Ultimate is a corporation organized and existing under the law of State of South Carolina, and is, or at all relevant times mentioned in the Complaint was, doing business as Ultimate Jet-A-Way Sportsbar & Lounge, in the County of Williamsburg (Id. at ¶6.)

         Relevant to this litigation, Plaintiff paid for, and was granted, the exclusive nationwide commercial television distribution rights to the Program. Plaintiff contracted with and granted certain businesses the rights to exhibit publicly the Program to its customers within their commercial establishments. Plaintiff expended substantial money in marketing, advertising, administering and transmitting the Program to such businesses.

         Plaintiff alleges in its Complaint that Defendants were present during the broadcast and committed, directly or indirectly, the misconduct, had dominion, control, oversight and management authority over the establishment known as Ultimate Jet-A-Way Sportsbar & Lounge, and had an obvious and direct financial interest in the misconduct. (ECF No. 1 at 3-4 ¶¶ 14-19.)

         III. ...


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