United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge.
the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Plaintiff's Motion”) (ECF 22). The Court
has reviewed Plaintiff's Motion and the opposition and
reply thereto. No hearing is deemed necessary. Local Rule
105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons set forth below, the Court
DENIES Plaintiff's Motion.
Complaint, Plaintiff contends that it purchased
“exclusive nationwide television distribution rights to
the Floyd Mayweather, Jr. v. Robert Guerrero, WBC
Welterweight Championship Fight Program which telecast
nationwide on Saturday, May 4, 2013” (the
“Program”). Compl. ¶ 8. Plaintiff states
that “with full knowledge that the Program was not to
be intercepted, received and exhibited” unless
authorized to do so, Defendant unlawfully obtained and
published the Program in its restaurant for “commercial
advantage or private financial gain.” Compl. ¶ 11.
In support thereof, Plaintiff attaches an affidavit from an
investigator who “observed the unlawful
exhibition” of the Program at Defendant's
restaurant. Compl. ¶ 12. Accordingly, Plaintiff seeks
damages, costs and attorney's fees under 47 U.S.C. 605,
47 U.S.C. 553, and a common law claim for conversion. Compl.
¶¶ 17, 22 and 26.
Standard of Review
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[t]he court
shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is deemed genuine only if the
“evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party, ” and a fact is deemed
material only if it “might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The Supreme Court
has explained that the burden of proof lies with the movant
to identify “those portions of ‘the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A court reviewing a motion for summary
judgment must view the evidence in the light most favorable
to the party opposing the motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus.
Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
Defendant cannot assert the affirmative defense of laches in
contends that the doctrine of laches may bar Plaintiff's
claims. Def.'s Opp'n 5. Case law is clear that
Defendant has a burden of establishing this affirmative
defense. “Since laches is an affirmative defense, the
burden of proving laches is on the defendant.”
Randall v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore,
512 F.Supp. 150, 151 (D. Md. 1981) citing Giddens v.
Isbrandtsen Co., 355 F.2d 125, 121 (4th Cir.
order to establish a laches defense, Defendant must set forth
a prima facie case demonstrating Plaintiff's
lack of diligence and prejudice to Defendant in pursuing its
claims. “In order to carry that burden Defendant must
show lack of diligence by Plaintiff, and prejudice to
Defendant resulting from that delay.” Id.
citing Costello v. United States, 365 U.S. 265, 282
(1961). In asserting that Plaintiff has not diligently
pursued its claims, Defendant notes that Plaintiff
“waited more than two years from the time the fight was
shown before it brought suit” against Defendant.
Def.'s Opp'n 5. The alleged wrongful conduct occurred
on May 4, 2013, and Plaintiff did not file the Complaint
until May 12, 2015.
arguendo, that the mere passage of two years in
tantamount to unreasonable delay, Defendant must still offer
evidence of prejudice incurred as a result. Said
“prejudice” looks to the “inaccessibility
of witnesses, the dimming of recollections and other
disadvantages incident to the lapse of time.”
Giddens, at 127. Defendant's “proof of
prejudice” comes by way of an affidavit that was filed
in support of an earlier motion. Affidavit of Gerardo
Labastida, ECF No. 12-1. In essence, Defendant claims that it
has been difficult to investigate the allegations and
determine the accuracy of the claims asserted by Plaintiff.
Defendant contends that employees who would have been present
no longer are employed and that others would not remember the
relevant events. Despite these contentions, Defendant has
made no suggestion that it is unable to locate these
witnesses nor that they were exposed to relevant information
that has since been forgotten. Not a single former employee
has been identified by name, or provided a factually based
supporting affidavit. Defendant is similarly not helped by
the affiant's representation that he was not at the
subject premises on the occasion in question. The
affiant's absence is a factual event that could never
have been helpful to the defense. Simply put, Defendant has
not shown that the passage of time created prejudice.
Defendant has not established a laches defense. Defendant has
failed to show a lack of diligence causing prejudice on the
part of Plaintiff.
Court is also of the view that Defendant cannot assert this
affirmative defense as a response to Plaintiff's Motion.
Defendant must do so independently and by way of its own
motion. Moreover, the statutory causes of action are not
equitable in nature. As such, the equitable defense of laches
does not apply. Lyons Partnership, L.P. v. Morris
Costumes, Inc., 243 F.3d 789, 797 (4th Cir.
2001). Defendant's suggestion of a laches defense is
Defendant's use of the Maryland “door
closing” statute is of no avail.
many other states, the Maryland legislature has passed a
“door closing” statute prohibiting certain
entities from filing suit in state courts in the absence of