J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. 4709 Incorporated, d/b/a Midtown Live et al
ORDER GRANTING 9 Motion for Default Judgment. Signed by Judge Robert Pitman. (td)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
J&J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC.,
4709 INCORPORATED, d/b/a MIDTOWN
LIVE SPORTS CAFE, d/b/a MIDTOWN
LIVE, SELENA DOUGLAS CASH, and
MICHAEL BARI CASH,
Before the Court is Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc.’s Motion for Default Judgment.
(Dkt. 9). For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that the motion should be granted.
On June 30, 2016, Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc. filed this action naming as
defendants 4709 Incorporated, Selena Douglas Cash, and Michael Bari Cash. Plaintiff states that it
was exclusively authorized to sub-license the closed circuit telecast of a boxing event on September
4, 2013 (“the Event”). (Compl. ¶ 7, Dkt. 1). Plaintiff alleges Defendants did not contract with it to
receive the telecast, but willfully intercepted or received the interstate communication of the Event
and provided it for viewing at their venue. (Id. ¶¶ 11-13). Plaintiff alleges Defendants’ conduct
constituted a violation of the Federal Communication Act (“FCA”), specifically 47 U.S.C. §§ 553
and 605. (Id. ¶ 17). By way of the Complaint, Plaintiff requests statutory damages and injunctive
relief, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.
Plaintiff has now filed a motion requesting entry of default judgment based on Defendants’
failure to file an answer or otherwise respond. (Dkt. 9). Plaintiff requests that judgment be entered
awarding it statutory damages under § 605, interest, and attorneys’ fees.
A defendant’s default “does not in itself warrant the court entering a default judgment.
There must be a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment entered. . . . The defendant is not
held to admit facts that are not well-pleaded or to admit conclusions of law. In short, . . . a default is
not treated as an absolute confession of the defendant of his liability and of the plaintiff's right to
recover.” Nishimatsu Constr. Co., Ltd. v. Houston Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975); see
also 10A Wright, Miller & Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3688 at 63 (“Even after default,
however, it remains for the court to consider whether the unchallenged facts constitute a legitimate
cause of action, since a party in default does not admit mere conclusions of law.”).
Under the FCA, a person is prohibited from “intercept[ing] any radio communication . . . or
receiv[ing] or assist[ing] in receiving any interstate or foreign communication by radio and us[ing]
such communication . . . for his own benefit or for the benefit of another not entitled thereto.” 47
U.S.C. § 605(a). The FCA also prohibits a person from “intercept[ing] or receiv[ing] or assist[ing] in
intercepting or receiving any communications service offered over a cable system” without
authorization. Id. § 553(a)(1). The first section imposes liability for interception or receipt of wireless
communications, the second for communications received by wire. J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Mandell
Family Ventures, L.L.C., 751 F.3d 346, 348 (5th Cir. 2014).
Here, Plaintiff alleges the Event was transmitted via an “electronically coded or ‘scrambled’”
satellite signal and that establishments which contracted with Plaintiff to broadcast the Event were
provided with the capability for receiving and decoding the signal. (Compl. ¶¶ 9-11, Dkt. 1). Plaintiff
further alleges Defendant “willfully intercepted or received the interstate communication of the
Event,” or, alternatively, “assisted in the receipt of the interstate communication of the Event.” (Id.
¶ 13). According to Plaintiff, Defendant “then transmitted, divulged and published [the Event] . . .
to patrons within [its] Establishment . . . willfully and with the express purpose and intent to secure a
commercial advantage and private financial gain.” (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.)
By virtue of their default, Defendants have admitted to the truth of these allegations.
Therefore, the Court finds Plaintiff has established a cause of action under the FCA. See Joe Hand
Promotions, Inc. v. Dadson, 2014 WL 5035300, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 8, 2014) (holding that to establish
liability under the FCA, plaintiff need only show limited access satellite broadcast was exhibited in
defendants' establishment and plaintiff did not authorize the exhibition of the broadcast); Kingvision
Pay-Per-View, Ltd. v. Guerrero, 2009 WL 1973285, at *2 (N.D. Tex. July 7, 2009) (finding that
undisputed evidence showing defendant intercepted and exhibited protected communications
without authorization established liability under the FCA).
The Court next turns to the question of relief. As a general rule, courts may enter a default
judgment awarding damages without a hearing only if the amount of damages is a liquidated sum, an
amount capable of mathematical calculation, or an amount demonstrated by detailed affidavits. James
v. Frame, 6 F.3d 307, 310 (5th Cir. 1993); United Artists Corp. v. Freeman, 605 F.2d 854, 857 (5th Cir.
1979). It is a matter within the court’s discretion whether to hold a hearing before awarding damages
in a default judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b)(2) (in determining amount of damages entered in
default, court may conduct such hearings or order such references to determine amount of damages
“as it deems necessary and proper”); James, 6 F.3d at 310 (district court has wide latitude in deciding
whether to require evidentiary hearing before entering default judgment). Here, Plaintiff has not
requested a hearing and has moved only for statutory, and not actual, damages. Accordingly, the
Court finds a hearing is not necessary to calculate damages.
Statutory damages call for an award of “not less than $1,000 or more than $10,000, as the
court considers just.” 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II). If the court finds a defendant violated the
statute “willfully and for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial
gain,” it may increase the damage award by up to $100,000, at its discretion. Id. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii). In
addition, “an aggrieved party who prevails” receives full costs, including reasonable attorney's fees.
Id. § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii).
Plaintiff contends that “it would be impossible to determine the full extent of the profits lost
and . . . additional damages sustained” as a result of Defendants’ actions. (Mot. Default J. ¶ 10, Dkt.
9). Plaintiff thus requests statutory, rather than actual, damages in the amount of the statutory
maximum of $10,000. Courts have assessed a broad range of statutory damages when presented with
violations akin to that of Defendant. See J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Zeqiri, 2015 WL 5916693, at *4
(N.D. Tex. Oct. 7, 2015) (granting award of $5,000 in statutory damages); Rivera, 2015 WL 1137473,
at *5 (granting statutory damage award of $2,300); J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Little Napoli, Inc., 2014
WL 3667903, at *3 (S.D. Tex. July 22, 2014) (finding statutory maximum of $10,000 appropriate); Joe
Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Armijo, 2014 WL 1761709, at *3 (W.D. Tex. May 1, 2014) (award of $3,600.00
in statutory damages); J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Casita Guanajuato, Inc., 2014 WL 1092177, at *2 (W.D.
Tex. Mar. 19, 2014) (finding $10,000.00 is a just amount in statutory damages).
In support of the request for damages Plaintiff proffers the affidavit of its counsel Thomas
P. Riley (“Riley”). (Riley Aff., Pl.’s Mot. Default J. Ex. A, Dkt. 9-1.) According to Riley, Plaintiff’s
business is damaged in several ways when proprietors such as Defendants broadcast sports events
without obtaining a required license. First, Plaintiff loses the revenue from the fee it charges for a
license. (Id. ¶ 13). Riley further explains that establishments that lawfully broadcast programs lose
business and patrons because they must charge patrons more than those establishments which do
not pay for the required license. They are thus less likely or able to obtain licenses in the future. (Id.
¶ 12). Finally, Plaintiff’s goodwill is impaired because its credibility in marketing that access to the
broadcast is limited to licensees is damaged. (Id. ¶ 14).
Plaintiff here presents evidence that Defendants would have faced a sublicensing fee of
approximately $4,200 had they actually paid to lawfully broadcast the Event. (Riley Aff. Ex. A-3 at 2,
Dkt. 9-1). 1 Courts have made clear that simply awarding damages in the amount a defendant would
have been charged for a sub-license is insufficient as it would have no deterrent effect. See Joe Hand
Promotions, Inc. v. RLPR Mgmt., LLC, 2015 WL 539649, at *5 (W.D. La. Feb. 6, 2015) (noting one
purpose of statutory award of damages is to deter conduct, awarding twice license fee in damages);
Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Plummer, 2014 WL 3749148, at *2 (N.D. Miss. July 29, 2014) (same,
awarding three times license fee as damages); Little Napoli, Inc., 2014 WL 3667903, at *3 (awarding
one and one-half times license fee as statutory damages); Al–Waha Enters., 219 F. Supp. 2d 769, 776
(S.D. Tex. 2002) (“Merely requiring Al–Waha to pay the price it would have been charged to obtain
legal authorization to display the event does nothing to accomplish this object [to deter future
violations of the FCA].”). To determine the amount of statutory damages, this Court agrees with
other courts that a reasonable award is around two to three times what would have been the cost
had Defendants followed the law. See G & G Closed Circuit Events LLC v. Rivals Sports Grill LLC,
2014 WL 198159, at *4 (W.D. La. Jan. 14, 2014); J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Rodriguez, 2013 WL
3967833, at *2 (W.D. Tex. July 31, 2013); Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Garcia, 546 F. Supp. 2d 383, 386
(W.D. Tex. 2008). Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiff’s request for statutory damages and awards
Plaintiff also seeks an award of $50,000 in “additional” damages. Under the FCA, where the
court finds a violation was “committed willfully and for purposes of direct or indirect commercial
The fee is based on the seating capacity of the venue. (See Riley Aff. Ex. A-3 at 2, Dkt. 9-1).
Plaintiff provides no information about the seating capacity of Defendants’ venue, so the Court
basis this fee on the number of patrons observed therein. (Id. Ex. A-2).
advantage or private financial gain” the court may increase the award of damages by an amount up
to $100,000. 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii).
Plaintiff maintains Defendants acted “willfully” as they could not have “innocently” accessed
the broadcast of the Event because the satellite signal was coded and required specialized equipment
to receive and decode the signal. (Compl. ¶ 14, Dkt. 1; Riley Aff. ¶ 6, Dkt 9-1.) Courts have generally
found this reasoning persuasive. See J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Torres, 2015 WL 4643191, at *5 (N.D.
Tex. Aug. 5, 2015) (finding willfulness given limited means by which defendants can access pay-perview events and unlikelihood that an establishment could intercept such broadcasts by chance);
Rivera, 2015 WL 1137473, at *5 (“It is highly unlikely that Defendant accidentally intercepted the
transmission of the Event, since the transmission was electronically coded”); Al–Waha Enters., 219
F. Supp. 2d at 777 (finding willfulness given the “limited methods of intercepting closed circuit
broadcasting of pay-per-view events” and “the low probability that a commercial establishment
could intercept such a broadcast merely by chance”); Garcia, 546 F. Supp. 2d at 385 (quoting Time
Warner Cable v. Googies Luncheonette, Inc., 77 F. Supp. 2d 485, 490 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (“signals do not
descramble spontaneously, nor do television sets connect themselves to cable distribution
systems.”)). Based on this line of cases, the Court likewise concludes Plaintiff has made a sufficient
showing of willfulness.
Plaintiff has also presented evidence which establishes Defendants exhibited the Event for
either direct or indirect commercial gain, as there were approximately two hundred patrons in their
restaurant at the time the Event was shown. (Mot. Default J. Ex. A-2 at 1, Dkt. 9-1.) Plaintiff asserts
the fact that Defendants showed the Event to its patrons while offering alcoholic beverages for sale
and charging a cover shows Defendants’ commercial motive. Similar evidence has been enough for
other courts to find a commercial motive. See J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Hernandez, 2015 WL 1292832,
at *5 (N.D. Tex. Mar. 20, 2015) (fact that establishment showing pirated television event and sold
patrons food and beverages sufficient to show commercial motive); Rivera, 2015 WL 1137473, at *5
(vending food and beverages is evidence of commercial motive); J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Beck, 2013
WL 5592333, at *2 (S.D. Tex. Oct. 9, 2013) (finding commercial motive based on fact that “patrons
purchased food and/or drinks while viewing the Event” and because “it is obvious that commercial
establishments show sports programs to draw business, not out of charity”). This Court agrees.
Having found willfulness and commercial motive, the Court turns to the question of the
appropriate amount of damages to award. As noted above, the Court has discretion to increase the
award of damages up to $100,000. Courts have exercised this discretion in a variety of ways. See, e.g.,
Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Alima, 2014 WL 1632158, at *5 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 22, 2014) (awarding four
times the statutory base award as additional damages where defendant charged cover and showed
event on nine screens to approximately 85 to 125 patrons); J & J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Q Café, Inc.,
2012 WL 215282, at *5 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 25, 2012) (awarding five times statutory base award where
defendant broadcast event in urban area and court noted the importance of deterring future
violations); Beck, 2013 WL 5592333, at *3 (awarding three times base because defendant did not
charge cover, only thirty patrons viewed event, and defendant was not repeat offender); Kingvision
Pay–Per–View, Ltd. v. Scott E's Pub, Inc., 146 F. Supp. 2d 955, 960 (E.D. Wis. 2001) (awarding five
times base statutory amount because defendant advertised event, charged cover, and showed event
on five television monitors).
Plaintiff suggests the appropriate award is an amount five times the grant of statutory
damages. A quintupling of damages is at the high end of the spectrum of damages awarded in other
cases. In a similar case, this Court found such an award to be unwarranted where the evidence
demonstrated that an event had been broadcast on only one television, between seventy to eighty
patrons attended, and there was no evidence that the defendants promoted the event or charged a
cover. (See Order on Default J., J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Chino Prods., Inc., 5:15-cv-476-RP (W.D. Tex.
Jan. 27, 2016)). This Court therefore awarded only an additional $6,200, the amount of the fee to
broadcast the event in the defendant’s venue. (See id.). The evidence presented in this case shows
that Defendants displayed the Event on one large television and eight smaller ones, charged a cover
of $10 per patron, and around two hundred patrons attended. (Mot. Default J. Ex. A-2). Thus, based
on the damages awarded by this Court and others, the evidence currently before this Court, and the
need to deter future violations, the Court finds that an additional damages award of $12,600 2 is
reasonable. See Zeqiri, 2015 WL 5916693, at *5 (award of $1,000 in additional damages where no
evidence was presented as to number of televisions showing event and only five people were
present); Rivera, 2015 WL 1137473, at *6 (awarding additional damages in amount of fee to
Attorney’s Fees and Costs
Under the FCA, the Court is required to order the recovery of full costs, including attorney's
fees, to an aggrieved party who prevails. 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii). Plaintiff here requests an award
of a one-third contingent fee or, alternatively, $1,000 worth of attorney's fees. In support of the
request Plaintiff presents an affidavit from its counsel, David M. Diaz (“Diaz”), who estimates his
fee as $1,000, based on approximately four hours of work a rate of $250 per hour. (Mot. Default J.
Ex. B (“Diaz Aff.”), Dkt. 9-1).
The determination of a fees award is a two-step process. Heidtman v. Cnty. of El Paso, 171
F.3d 1038, 1043 (5th Cir. 1999). First, a court calculates a “lodestar” figure “by multiplying the
number of hours reasonably expended by an appropriate hourly rate in the community for such
work.” Id. In making that calculation the court considers whether the attorneys demonstrated proper
billing judgment by “writing off unproductive, excessive, or redundant hours.” Walker v. U.S. Dep't of
Hous. & Urban Dev., 99 F.3d 761, 769 (5th Cir. 1996). After calculating the lodestar, the court may
This amount is triple the fee Defendants should have paid to broadcast the event.
increase or decrease it based on a number of factors including the time, labor and skill required, the
novelty and difficulty of the issues, the amount involved and results obtained, as well as the award in
similar cases. Heidtman, 171 F.3d at 1043.
In his affidavit Diaz states the attorneys representing Plaintiff have expended a minimum of
four hours on this litigation. Diaz also details his experience and provides evidence of the fees
charged by other attorneys in similar cases. (Diaz Aff. ¶¶ 9-11). Accordingly, the Court finds no
adjustment to Diaz’s figures is necessary and finds an award of $1,000 in attorneys’ fees is
appropriate. Pursuant to the FCA, the Court also awards Plaintiff such other reasonable costs as it
The Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff’s Motion for Final Default Judgment (Dkt. 9).
Specifically, Defendants shall pay Plaintiff:
(1) $10,000.00 in statutory damages pursuant to 47 U .S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II); plus
(2) $12,600.00 in additional damages pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii); plus
(3) $1,000.00 in reasonable attorneys’ fees pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii); plus
(4) costs in an amount to be determined pursuant to the procedure specified in W.D. Tex. Local
Court Rule CV-54.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendants shall pay post-judgment interest, to be
calculated and compounded pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1961, until paid in full. All other relief not
granted herein is DENIED.
SIGNED on July 17, 2017.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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