United States District Court, E.D. California
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT (Doc. 10)
BARBARA A. McAULIFFE, Magistrate Judge.
On February 6, 2014, J&J Sports Production, Inc. ("Plaintiff") filed the present motion for default judgment against Defendant Parampal Singh, individually and doing business as McHenry's Bar & Restaurant ("Defendant"). (Doc. 10). Defendant has not responded to the motion or otherwise appeared in this lawsuit. The motion was referred to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302. The Court deemed the matter suitable for decision without oral argument pursuant to Local Rule 230(g), and vacated the hearing scheduled for March 28, 2014. On April 15, 2014, the Court issued a minute order requesting additional briefing supporting valid service of the summons and the complaint in this action, which was submitted on April 16, 2014. (Docs. 16, 17). Having considered the moving papers, the supplemental briefing, and the Court's file, the Court RECOMMENDS that Plaintiff's motion for default judgment be GRANTED and judgment entered in the amount of $14, 000.00 against Defendant.
On September 9, 2013, Plaintiff J&J Sports Production, Inc. ("Plaintiff") filed its complaint against Defendant, alleging violations of 47 U.S.C. § 605, et seq., and 47 U.S.C. § 553, et seq., as well as claims under California state law. Plaintiff claims that it was the exclusive commercial distributor of the program " Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. v. Sergio Martinez, WBC Middleweight Championship Fight Program " (the "Program"). According to Plaintiff, Defendant unlawfully intercepted and broadcast the telecast of the Program on September 15, 2012 at McHenry's Bar & Restaurant (the "restaurant"). The complaint alleges that Plaintiff was the exclusive commercial distributor of closed-circuit rights to the Program. Since Defendant operates the restaurant, a commercial establishment, and exhibited the Program there, Defendant could not have lawfully obtained the Program without contracting with Plaintiff. (Doc. 10 at 9). Defendant did not contract with Plaintiff, and thus must have wrongfully intercepted, received, and broadcasted the Program.
On January 6, 2014, after Defendant failed to file an answer, Plaintiff requested an entry of default against Defendant, which was entered by the clerk on that same day. (Doc. 7). On February 6, 2014, Plaintiff filed the instant motion for default judgment. (Doc. 10). Plaintiff's motion requests that the Court enter default judgment against Defendant for damages in the amount of $112, 000.00. Plaintiff also submitted a supplemental declaration stating that, after this action was commenced, a second piracy action was brought against defendant Singh in this district. See Supplemental Declaration of Thomas P. Riley ("Riley Supp. Decl."), Ex. 4 (Doc. 10-4 at ¶ 4); See Joe Hand Prod., Inc. v. Singh, No. 1:13-cv-1484 LJO-SKO, (E.D. Cal.). Defendant has not appeared or otherwise defended this action.
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.
Generally, 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 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, but it does not establish the amount of damages. Geddes, 559 F.2d at 560.order.
1. Adequacy of Service of Process
As a general rule, and of particular importance considering the Court's prior reservations regarding the sufficiency of service of the summons and complaint, the Court considers the adequacy of service of process before evaluating the merits of Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment. See BR North 223, LLC v. Glieberman, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24288, 8-9 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 24, 2012). Under Fed. R. Civ. P 4(e), an individual such as Defendant Singh may be served by:
(1) following state law for serving a summons in an action brought in courts of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located or where service is made; or
(2) doing any of the following:
(A) delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the individual personally; or
(B) leaving a copy of each at the individual's dwelling or usual place of abode with someone of suitable age and ...