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J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. MacHuca

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 1, 2014

J & J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
RUBEN CONTRERAS MACHUCA, d/b/a CENTENNIAL BAR AND GRILL a/k/a CENTENIAL RANCH SPORTS BAR AND GRILL, et al., Defendants.

ORDER AND FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

KENDALL J. NEWMAN, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the court is plaintiff J & J Sports Productions, Inc.'s ("plaintiff") motion for default judgment against defendant Ruben Contreras Machuca and Silvia Ochoa Gomez, (collectively "defendants"), both individually and doing business as Centennial Bar and Grill a/k/a Centenial Ranch Sports Bar and Grill.[1] Pursuant to the court's minute order issued on March 21, 2014, plaintiff's motion for default judgment was taken under submission on the papers and without oral argument.

For the reasons stated below, the undersigned recommends that plaintiff's motion for default judgment be granted, that judgment be entered in plaintiff's favor, and that plaintiff be awarded a total of $3, 700 in statutory and compensatory damages.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff initiated this action on May 30, 2013, alleging claims under 47 U.S.C. section

605, et seq., 47 U.S.C. section 553, et seq., and California Business and Professions Code section 17200, et seq., in addition to a state law tort claim for conversion. (See generally Compl., ECF No. 1.) Defendants are the owners, or operators, or licensees, or permittees, or persons in charge, or persons with control over the commercial establishment doing business as Centennial Bar and Grill a/k/a Centenial Ranch Sports Bar and Grill ("Centennial Bar"), which is located at 10408 Franklin Boulevard, in Elk Grove, California. (Compl. ¶¶ 6-7.) Plaintiff was granted by contract "the exclusive nationwide commercial distribution (closed-circuit) rights to Manny Pacquiao v. Timothy Bradley, WBO Welterweight Championship Fight Program, telecast nationwide on Saturday, June 9, 2012" ("Plaintiff's Program"), which included the distribution rights to "all under-card bouts and fight commentary encompassed in the television broadcast of the event." (Id. at ¶18.)

Plaintiff alleges in its complaint that on June 9, 2012, defendants either specifically directed the employees of Centennial Bar "to unlawfully intercept and broadcast Plaintiff's Program" at Centennial Bar or were directly responsible for the actions of Centennial Bar's employees "by virtue of their acknowledged responsibility for the actions of Centennial Bar." (Id. at ¶15.) Plaintiff further alleges that "the unlawful broadcast of Plaintiff's Program, as supervised and/or authorized by Defendants... resulted in increased profits for Centennial Bar." (Id. at ¶16.)

In its complaint, plaintiff requests statutory damages of $110, 000 for the willful violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605 and for recovery of all costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. (Id. at 10.) Plaintiff prays for statutory damages of $60, 000 for the willful violation of 47 U.S.C. § 553 and for recovery of all costs and reasonable attorneys' fees. (Id.) Plaintiff also seeks compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorneys' fees, and costs of suit for defendants' tortious conversion of Plaintiff's Program. (Id. at 11.) Finally, plaintiff seeks restitution, declaratory relief, injunctive relief, attorneys' fees, and costs of suit for defendant's violation of the California Business & Professions Code. (Id.)

Plaintiff's complaint and summons were served upon defendant Machuca on July 23, 2013, by personal service at defendant's address. (ECF No. 5.) Plaintiff's complaint and summons were served upon defendant Gomez on August 5, 2013, by substituted service at defendant's place of business. (ECF No. 6.)

On August 20, 2013, plaintiff filed a request for entry of default against defendant Machuca. (ECF No. 7.) On August 21, 2013, the Clerk of Court entered defendant Machuca's default. (ECF No. 8.) On September 23, 2013, plaintiff filed a request for entry of default against defendant Ochoa. (ECF No. 11.) On September 24, 2013, the Clerk of Court entered defendant Ochoa's default. (ECF No. 12.)

On September 10, 2013, plaintiff filed a motion for default judgment as to defendant Machuca. (ECF No. 9.) The court denied plaintiff's motion without prejudice to its renewal on October 17, 2013, stating that the motion failed to identify whether it was intended to target all named defendants. (ECF No. 13.) On February 5, 2014, plaintiff filed a new motion for default judgment, seeking default judgment as to both defendants named in the complaint. (ECF No. 14.) Despite being served with process and all papers filed in connection with plaintiff's requests for entry of default and motions for default judgment, defendants failed to respond to plaintiff's complaint, plaintiff's requests for entry of default, or plaintiff's motions for default judgment.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

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)). 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 considers 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)); accord Fair Housing of Marin v. Combs , 285 F.3d 899, 906 (9th Cir. 2002). In addition, 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 not established 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. Hoa Huynh , 503 F.3d 847, 854 (9th Cir. 2007) (stating that a defendant does not admit facts that are not well-pled or conclusions of law); Abney v. Alameida , 334 ...


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