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J & J Sports Productions, Inc v. Roberta Luala Curtis

March 30, 2012

J & J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERTA LUALA CURTIS, DBA TIERRA BUENA TAVERN,
DEFENDANT.



ORDER AND FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS

Pending before the court is plaintiff's motion for default judgment against defendant Roberta Luala Curtis, doing business as Tierra Buena Tavern, located at 2365 Butte House Road, Yuba City, CA 95993. The court has determined that the matter shall be submitted upon the record and briefs on file and accordingly, the date for hearing of this matter shall be vacated. Local Rule 230. Upon review of the motion and the supporting documents, and good cause appearing, the court finds as follows:

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 29, 2010, plaintiff, an international distributor of sports and entertainment programming, filed a complaint against defendant alleging that the latter unlawfully intercepted and exhibited a broadcast of a program featuring a welterweight championship boxing fight between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton, IBO Welterweight Championship Fight Program ("the Program")*fn1 in her establishment for commercial advantage without obtaining a sublicense from plaintiff for its use, in violation of the Communications Act, 47 U.S.C. § 605, the Cable Communications Policy Act, 47 U.S.C. § 553, and state law. The complaint alleges defendant exhibited the Program on May 2, 2009.

Plaintiff brings this action pursuant to (1) a violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605 (Unauthorized Publication or Use of Communications) alleging that defendant knowingly intercepted, received, and exhibited the Program for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain; (2) a violation of 47 U.S.C. § 553 (Unauthorized Reception of Cable Services) based upon the same allegations; (3) a claim for conversion alleging that defendant tortiously obtained possession of the Program and wrongfully converted it for his own benefit; and (4) a violation of the California Business & Professions Code § 17200, et. seq.

In the complaint, plaintiff seeks $110,000 in statutory damages as well as attorneys' fees and costs for Count I; $60,000 in statutory damages, as well as attorneys' fees and costs for Count II; compensatory damages, exemplary damages, and punitive damages for Count III; and restitution, declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorneys' fees for Count IV.*fn2

The summons and complaint were served on defendant by personal service on July 7, 2010. See Doc. No. 5; Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e)(2); Pacific Atlantic Trading Co. v. M/V Main Express, 758 F.2d 1325, 1331 (9th Cir. 1985) (default judgment void without personal jurisdiction). Defendant has failed to file an answer or otherwise appear in this action. The clerk entered default against defendant on September 14, 2011.

Request for entry of default and the instant motion for default judgment and supporting papers were served by mail on defendant at her last known address. Doc. No. 23. Defendant did not file an opposition to the motion for entry of default judgment. Plaintiff seeks an entry of default judgment in the amount of $111,600 ($10,000 for statutory damages, $100,000 for enhanced damages and $1,600 for conversion).

LEGAL STANDARD

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, default may be entered against a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought who fails to plead or otherwise defend against the action. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). However, "[a] defendant's default does not automatically entitle the plaintiff to a court-ordered judgment." PepsiCo, Inc. v. Cal. Sec. Cans, 238 F. Supp. 2d 1172, 1174 (C.D. Cal. 2002) (citing Draper v. Coombs, 792 F.2d 915, 924-25 (9th Cir. 1986)); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b) (governing the entry of default judgments). Instead, the decision to grant or deny an application for default judgment lies within the district court's sound discretion. Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980). In making this determination, the court may consider the following factors:

(1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff; (2) the merits of plaintiff's substantive claim; (3) the sufficiency of the complaint; (4) the sum of money at stake in the action; (5) the possibility of a dispute concerning material facts; (6) whether the default was due to excusable neglect; and (7) the strong policy underlying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure favoring decisions on the merits. Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1986). Default judgments are ordinarily disfavored. Id. at 1472.

As a general rule, once default is entered, well-pleaded factual allegations in the operative complaint are taken as true, except for those allegations relating to damages. TeleVideo Sys., Inc. v. Heidenthal, 826 F.2d 915, 917-18 (9th Cir. 1987) (per curiam) (citing Geddes v. United Fin. Group, 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th Cir. 1977) (per curiam)); see also Fair Housing of Marin v. Combs, 285 F.3d 899, 906 (9th Cir. 2002). Although well-pleaded allegations in the complaint are admitted by a defendant's failure to respond, "necessary facts not contained in the pleadings, and claims which are legally insufficient, are notestablished by default." Cripps v. Life Ins. Co. of N. Am., 980 F.2d 1261, 1267 (9th Cir. 1992) (citing Danning v. Lavine, 572 F.2d 1386, 1388 (9th Cir. 1978)); accord DIRECTV, Inc. v. Huynh, 503 F.3d 847, 854 (9th Cir. 2007) ("[A] defendant is not held to admit facts that are not well-pleaded or to admit conclusions of law" (citation and quotation marks omitted).); Abney v. Alameida, 334 F. Supp. 2d 1221, 1235 (S.D. Cal. 2004) ("[A] default judgment may not be entered on a legally insufficient claim."). A party's default conclusively establishes that party's liability, although it does not establish the amount of damages. Geddes, 559 F.2d at 560; cf. Adriana Int'l Corp. v. Thoeren, 913 F.2d 1406, 1414 (9th Cir. 1990) (stating in the context of a default entered pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 that the default conclusively established the liability of the defaulting party).

DISCUSSION

A. The Eitel Factors

1. Factor One: Possibility of Prejudice ...


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