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J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Bromart, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 27, 2016




         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this case involving alleged violations of the Communications Act of 1934 is a motion for monetary judgment filed by Plaintiff J & J Sports Productions, Inc. (“Plaintiff” or “J & J”). (ECF No. 15). The court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Plaintiff’s motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         On January 21, 2015, Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendant Bromart, LLC t/a Sahara Oasis t/a Sahara Oasis Restaurant and Lounge (“Defendant” or the “establishment”). Plaintiff, an international distributor of sports and entertainment programming, alleged that it held exclusive distribution rights to the May 5, 2012 broadcast of Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v. Miguel Cotto, WBA World Light Middleweight Championship Fight Program (the “Broadcast”), which Defendant unlawfully intercepted and exhibited for its patrons. On December 8, 2015, the court granted partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff on the issue of liability (ECF Nos. 12; 13), and Plaintiff now seeks monetary judgment in the amount of $150, 000.00.

         The facts of the case are uncontested. Plaintiff “paid for and was thereafter granted the exclusive nationwide television distribution rights to the [Broadcast, ] which [was] telecast nationwide on Saturday, May 5, 2012.” (ECF No. 1 ¶ 8). Plaintiff entered into sublicensing agreements with commercial establishments, such as bars and restaurants, which purchased the rights to exhibit the Broadcast for their patrons. Defendant did not obtain a sublicense from Plaintiff.

         Robert Modzelewski, an investigator hired by Plaintiff, visited the establishment on the night of the Broadcast at approximately 11:45 p.m. (ECF No. 15-3, at 1). Mr. Modzelewski witnessed Defendant charging patrons a fee of $20.00 to enter the establishment. Inside, he observed two televisions showing the Broadcast. Mr. Modzelewski estimated that the establishment had capacity for approximately 80 people, and he observed between 15-20 people inside at various times.

         Plaintiff’s complaint alleges three counts: violations of 47 U.S.C. §§ 605 (unauthorized publication or use of communications) and 553 (unauthorized reception of cable services) (Counts I and II); and the Maryland common law tort of conversion (Count III). (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 7-26). Defendant answered the complaint, stating that it “has been liquidated” and “ceased operations effective June 30, 2014.” (ECF No. 6, at 1). According to Defendant, “[t]here are no known assets.” (Id.). Plaintiff moved for summary judgment on Counts I and II, which Defendant did not oppose. (ECF No. 11). The court granted Plaintiff’s motion and entered partial summary judgment as to liability in favor of Plaintiff on Counts I and II. (ECF Nos. 12; 13).[1] Plaintiff filed the pending motion on February 9, 2016, requesting monetary judgment against Defendant on Counts I and II for $150, 000.00. (ECF No. 15). Defendant has not responded in opposition, and the time in which to do so has passed.

         II. Standard of Review

         Upon establishing a violation of § 605(a):

Damages . . . shall be computed, at the election of the aggrieved party, in accordance with either of the following subclauses;
(I) the party aggrieved may recover the actual damages suffered by him as a result of the violation and any profits of the violator that are attributable to the violation which are not taken into account in computing the actual damages; in determining the violator's profits, the party aggrieved shall be required to prove only the violator's gross revenue, and the violator shall be required to prove his deductible expenses and the elements of the profit attributable to factors other than the violation; or
(II) the party aggrieved may recover an award of statutory damages for each violation . . . in a sum 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). As this court has previously explained, “the statutory damages award that ‘the court considers just, ’ 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(i)(II), is an approximation of the damages actually incurred by [the plaintiff] due to [the defendant’s] violation.” J & J Sports Prods. v. Mumford, No. DKC-10-2967, 2012 WL 6093897, at *3 (D.Md. Dec. 6, 2012).

         Furthermore, § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii) provides that “[i]n any case in which the court finds that the violation was committed willfully and for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain, the court . . . may increase the award of damages, whether actual ...

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