United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
LUCY H. KOH, District Judge.
On December 20, 2013, the Clerk of the Court entered default against defendant Hong Yen Leonard, individually and doing business as Sao Bistro & Cafe, also known as 5 Sao Bistro & Cafe ("Defendant"), after Defendant failed to appear or otherwise respond to the Summons and Complaint in this case within the time prescribed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See ECF No. 20. Before the Court is the Motion for Default Judgment filed by J&J Sports Productions, Inc. ("Plaintiff"). See Mot. Default J. ("Mot."), ECF No. 21-1. Defendant, not having appeared in this action to this date, has not opposed the motion. Pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7-1(b), the Court finds this matter appropriate for determination without oral argument. Accordingly, the hearing and the case management conference set for May 22, 2014, at 1:30 p.m. are VACATED. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment is GRANTED.
Plaintiff is a sports and entertainment programming distributor. Plaintiff alleges it secured exclusive nationwide commercial distribution rights to broadcast the "Manny Pacquiao v. Timothy Bradley, WBO Welterweight Championship Fight Program" (the "Program"), which telecast nationwide on June 9, 2012. See Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 14. Plaintiff then entered into sub-licensing agreements with various commercial entities throughout the United States, wherein it granted limited public exhibition rights to these entities in exchange for licensing fees. See Compl. ¶ 15. On June 9, 2012, investigator David Sims observed the Program being displayed at Defendant's commercial establishment, Sao Bistro & Cafe, also known as 5 Sao Bistro & Cafe, located in San Jose, California. See Compl. ¶¶ 7-12; Mot. at 2. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant intercepted the Program unlawfully, and intentionally exhibited it for the purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain. See Compl. ¶¶ 17-18.
On May 28, 2013, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant for: (1) violation of the Federal Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 605, et seq.; (2) violation of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 553, et seq.; (3) conversion; and (4) violation of California Business and Professions Code §§ 17200, et seq. See ECF No. 1. On September 22, 2013, Plaintiff served Defendant with a copy of the Summons, Complaint, and related documents. See ECF No. 9. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a)(1)(A)(i), Defendant was thereby required to file and serve his response to Plaintiff no later than October 15, 2013. However, Defendant has not appeared and has not filed any responsive pleading. See Decl. Thomas P. Riley in Supp. of Pl.'s Appl. Default J. ("Riley Decl.") ¶ 2, ECF No. 21-2.
On December 20, 2013, the Clerk of the Court granted Plaintiff's request and entered default against Defendant. See ECF No. 20. Plaintiff now moves for default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See ECF No. 21.
A. Default Judgment
The Court finds that default judgment is appropriate in the instant case. If a defendant fails to answer a complaint in a timely manner, a plaintiff may move the court for an entry of default judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(b)(2). The district court's decision whether to enter a default judgment is discretionary. See Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980) (per curiam). When deciding whether a default judgment is warranted, a 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). Generally, default judgments are disfavored because "[c]ases should be decided upon their merits whenever reasonably possible." Id. at 1472.
Here, many of the Eitel factors favor entry of default judgment. First, Plaintiff will likely be prejudiced if default judgment is not entered. Because Defendant has refused to take part in the litigation, Plaintiff will be denied the right to adjudicate the claims and obtain relief if default judgment is not granted. See PepsiCo, Inc. v. Cal. Sec. Cans, 238 F.Supp.2d 1172, 1177 (C.D. Cal. 2002). Additionally, there is no indication that Defendant's default is due to excusable neglect or that material facts are disputed since Defendant has not presented a defense or otherwise communicated with the Court. Moreover, though public policy favors decisions on the merits, litigation of the merits is simply not possible in light of Defendant's refusal to litigate.
In contrast, Plaintiff's request for maximum statutory damages weighs against granting an entry of default judgment, particularly because the amount requested appears disproportionate to the harm alleged. See Eitel, 782 F.2d at 1472. However, given that the Court may address the reasonableness of Plaintiff's request when deciding the question of damages, the Court need not deny default judgment on this factor alone. See, e.g., Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Mujadidi, No. 11-5570 EMC, 2012 WL 3537036, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 14, 2012) (noting that a request for maximum possible statutory damages "is not enough on its own to bar a default judgment... as it may be addressed by the Court in deciding what damages should be awarded, assuming that a default judgment is otherwise appropriate.").
The second and third Eitel factors, involving the merits of Plaintiff's substantive claim and the sufficiency of the Complaint, warrant a closer analysis by the Court. Although Plaintiff's complaint alleges violations of (1) 47 U.S.C. § 605, (2) 47 U.S.C. § 553, (3) California's law against conversion, and (4) California Business and Professions Code §17200, Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment ...