United States District Court, D. Maryland
ROGER W. TITUS, District Judge.
Before this Court is a Motion for Judgment by Default filed by Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc. For the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted.
On June 10, 2011, Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc. ("J&J Sports") filed a Complaint against Defendants Tammy P. Royster and John R. Royster. ECF No. 1. J&J Sports alleges that the Roysters are liable under two statutes, 47 U.S.C. § 605 and 47 U.S.C. § 553, for unlawfully intercepting and exhibiting the television broadcast of a boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton on May 2, 2009. ECF No. 1. The Complaint also includes a count of conversion, and it seeks $100, 000 in damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605, $50, 000 in damages under 47 U.S.C. § 553, compensatory damages for conversion, and attorneys' fees and costs. ECF No. 1.
J&J Sports enjoyed "the exclusive nationwide television distribution rights" to the May 2, 2009 match, all of the undercard fights, and the television commentary, and it never granted a commercial license to the Roysters to broadcast the fight. ECF No. 1. The Complaint avers that the Roysters, in connection with an entity known as Nothing But a Party Production LLC, trading as Marygolds or Marygold Family Event Center, intercepted the broadcast of the fight and showed it on five televisions at the Marygold Family Event Center at 8827 Annapolis Road, Lanham, Maryland on May 2, 2009. ECF Nos. 1, 1-1. According to the affidavit of an investigator named Jauqine Tantillo, who paid a $40.00 cover charge to watch the May 2, 2009 fight at this location, the capacity of the establishment was approximately 200 people, and there were, over the course of the nine minutes that she was there, up to 62 patrons at the event. ECF No. 1-1.
J&J Sports effected service of process on John Royster on June 14, 2011, ECF No. 5, and on Tammy Royster on September 24, 2011, ECF No. 7. Neither Defendant responded to the Complaint, and on September 21, 2011 and November 4, 2011, J&J Sports moved for the Clerk to enter default against John and Tammy Royster, respectively, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55. ECF Nos. 6, 8. The Clerk entered default against John Royster on December 27, 2011, ECF No. 9, and against Tammy Royster on January 3, 2012, ECF No. 10.
On March 22, 2012, J&J Sports filed a Motion for Judgment by Default against the Roysters under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, seeking $100, 000 in damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605, $50, 000 in damages under 47 U.S.C. § 553, and $1, 500 in damages for conversion. ECF No. 11. In support of its motion, J&J Sports submitted a Memorandum of Points and Authorities, the Tantillo affidavit that had been previously submitted with the Complaint, and two bare-bones affidavits by J&J Sports President Joseph Gagliardi. ECF No. 11. On January 14, 2013, this Court denied the motion without prejudice because of the Plaintiff's failure to adequately support its motion. ECF No. 12.
On June 12, 2013, J&J Sports filed a second Motion for Judgment by Default, this time including a more thorough memorandum, a declaration by Plaintiff's counsel, a more extensive affidavit by J&J Sports President Gagliardi, and a number of other supporting documents. ECF No. 13. This motion seeks $110, 000 in damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605, $2, 000 in damages for conversion, and the recovery of costs and attorneys' fees under 47 U.S.C. § 605. ECF No. 13.
On January 30, 2014, this Court mailed a letter to John and Tammy Royster, informing them that default had been entered against them in this case, and urging them, should they choose to dispute the entries of default or the amount sought by J&J Sports in its second Motion for Judgment by Default, to do so within twenty-one days of January 30, 2014. ECF No. 14. As of the date of this opinion, neither Defendant has filed anything in this case.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
While the Clerk of this Court has entered default against the Defendants pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55, "[a] defendant's default does not automatically entitle the plaintiff to entry of a default judgment; rather, that decision is left to the discretion of the court." J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Melgar, PJM 11-3339, 2012 WL 1852270, *1 (D. Md. May 17, 2012) (citing Baltimore Line Handling Co. v. Brophy, 771 F.Supp.2d 531, 540 (D. Md. 2011)). And although the Fourth Circuit has a "strong policy that cases be decided on the merits, " United States v. Shaffer Equip. Co., 11 F.3d 450, 453 (4th Cir. 1993), "default judgment may be appropriate when the adversary process has been halted because of an essentially unresponsive party." S.E.C. v. Lawbaugh, 359 F.Supp.2d 418, 421 (D. Md. 2005) (citing Jackson v. Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980)).
"Upon [entry of] default, the well-pled allegations in a complaint as to liability are taken as true, although the allegations as to damages are not." Id. at 422. In addition, "unless the amount of damages is certain, the court is required to make an independent determination of the sum to be awarded." Adkins v. Teseo, 180 F.Supp.2d 15, 17 (D.D.C. 2001) (internal citation omitted). "While the court may hold a hearing to consider evidence as to damages, it is not required to do so; it may rely instead on detailed affidavits or documentary evidence to determine the appropriate sum.'" J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Frank Little Enterprises, LLC, DKC 12-0997, 2012 WL 6019366, *2 (D. Md. Nov. 30, 2012) (quoting Adkins, 180 F.Supp.2d at 17).
Although the Plaintiff's Complaint seeks damages under two statutes, 47 U.S.C. § 605 and 47 U.S.C. § 553, its second Motion for Judgment by Default acknowledges that when faced with a claim like the Plaintiff's, "the Maryland Courts have only awarded recovery under one statute, and thus Plaintiff seeks recovery under 47 U.S.C. § 605." ECF No. 13-2 at 4; see also Melgar, 2012 WL 1852270 at *2 ("Plaintiffs, however, cannot recover under both [47 U.S.C. § 605 and 47 U.S.C. § 553] for the same conduct, so courts typically grant recovery ...