Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

J&J Sports Productions, Inc. v. Torres

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

January 13, 2020

J& J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CINDY TORRES, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         J & J Sports Productions, Inc. ("Plaintiff), a closed-circuit television distributor, filed this action on April 6, 2018 against Cindy Torres and Ruth Melgar ("Defendants"), whom Plaintiff alleged trades as Chie's Enterprises, LLC, Irene's Pupusas, and Irene's Pupusas Restaurant, seeking damages for unlawful interception and broadcast of Plaintiff s pay-per-view boxing match. ECF No. 1. On March 27, 2019, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion granting in part and denying in part Plaintiffs Motion for Default Judgment. ECF No. 10. Plaintiff now moves to alter or amend the Court's judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). No. hearing is necessary. See Loc. Rule 105.6. (D. Md.). For the following reasons, the Court will deny Plaintiffs Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following background facts were asserted in Plaintiffs Complaint and related in part in the Court's prior Memorandum Opinion. Plaintiff paid for and was granted "the exclusive nationwide commercial distribution rights" to a series of boxing matches airing on Saturday, May 2, 2015. ECF No. 1 ¶ 15. Plaintiff subsequently entered into sublicensing agreements with various commercial establishments in the hospitality industry to broadcast the match. Id. ¶ 16. In an affidavit attached to Plaintiffs Complaint, a private investigator declared that, on the evening of May 2, he entered Irene's Pupusas, a restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland, and observed one of these boxing matches being shown on one of the restaurant's televisions. ECF No. 1-1 at 7.[1]Approximately 40 people were inside the restaurant, which had a capacity of approximately 200 people. Id. at 8. According to Plaintiffs "rate card" for the program, Plaintiff would have charged $6, 000 to broadcast the match to a venue with a capacity of 101-200 people. Id. at 10.

         The Complaint alleged that the broadcast of the boxing match by Irene's Pupusas violated Plaintiffs rights as the "exclusive commercial domestic distributor" of the match. ECF No. 1 ¶ 3. According to the Complaint, Defendants Cindy Torres and Ruth Melgar trade as and are the managing members of Chie's Enterprises, LLC, and also trade as Irene's Pupusas, and Irene's Pupusas Restaurant. Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff alleged that Torres and Melgar had the "right and ability" and "obligation" to "supervise the activities" of Irene's Pupusas, "specifically directed" the employees of Irene's Pupusas to intercept and broadcast the boxing match without authorization from Plaintiff, and "had an obvious and direct financial interest in the activities" of Irene's Pupusas. Id. ¶¶ 8-11.

         After Defendants were served but failed to respond to the Complaint, Plaintiff successfully requested that the Clerk of the Court enter default, ECF No. 8, and then filed a Motion for Default Judgment. ECF No. 9. The Motion sought $6, 000 in statutory damages under the Federal Cable Act, 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(c)(i)(II), $18, 000 in enhanced damages under 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii), and $2, 190 in attorney's fees and costs pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii). ECF No. 9-4 at 6-9. In a Memorandum Opinion issued on March 27, 2019, the Court granted the request for $6, 000 in statutory damages and $2, 190 in attorney's fees and costs, but denied enhanced damages. ECF No. 10 at 5-6.

         The Court declined to hold Torres and Melgar individually liable for Chie's Enterprises, LLC's violations of the Federal Cable Act. Id. at 4-5. While the Complaint alleged that Torres and Melgar "had a right and ability to supervise" the restaurant's activities and '`an obvious and direct financial interest" in those activities, the Court viewed those assertions as mere formulaic recitations of the elements of Plaintiff s claim. Id. at 4 (citing ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 8, 11). Applying the standard of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Court found these claims insufficient without further factual allegations of a financial relationship between the individual defendants and Chie's Enterprises, LLC. Id. at 4. There was inadequate support, the Court determined, for the claim that the individual defendants had an "obvious and direct financial interest" in the broadcast of the boxing matches given the Complaint's allegations that only 40 people were present on a Saturday evening in a restaurant with a capacity of 200 and the restaurant had no cover charge. See id.

         Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment on April 24, 2019. ECF No. 12. Plaintiff requests that the Court alter its judgment to enter liability against Torres and Melgar and to award enhanced statutory damages. Id. Defendants have not appeared.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion to reconsider under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) "may only be granted in three situations: '(1) to accommodate an intervening change in controlling law; (2) to account for new evidence not available at trial; or (3) to correct a clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice.'" Mayfield v. Nat'l Ass'n for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc., 674 F.3d 369, 378 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting Zinkand v. Brown, 478 F.3d 634, 637 (4th Cir. 2007)). "Clear error or manifest injustice occurs where a court has patently misunderstood a party, or has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court by the parties, or has made an error not of reasoning but of apprehension." Letren v. Arch Bay Holdings, LLC, No. GJH-15-622, 2016 WL 8673871, at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 16, 2016) (quoting Wagner v. Warden, No. ELH-14-791, 2016 WL 1169937, at *3 (D. Md. Mar. 24, 2016)). Rule 59(e) reconsideration "is an extraordinary remedy that should be applied sparingly." Mayfield, 674 F.3d at 378 (citing EEOC v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 116 F.3d 110, 112 (4th Cir. 1997)). "A Rule 59(e) motion 'may not be used to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment.'" Letren, 2016 WL 8673871, at *2 (quoting Pac. Ins. Co. v. Am. Nat. Fire Ins. Co., 148 F.3d 396, 403 (4th Cir. 1998)). '"[M]ere disagreement' with the court's ruling does not support a motion to alter or amend the judgment." Id. (alteration in original) (quoting Hutchinson v. Staton, 994 F.2d 1076, 1082 (4th Cir. 1993)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff argues first that the Court made a clear error when it declined to enter default judgment as to the individual Defendants. ECF No. 12-3 at 2. But Plaintiffs claim amounts to "[m]ere disagreement with the court's ruling." Letren, 2016 WL 8673871, at *2 (quoting Hutchinson, 994 F.2d at 1082). As the Court explained in the Memorandum Opinion, allegations in a complaint on which a plaintiff seeks a default judgment are evaluated under the plausibility pleading standard established by the Supreme Court in Iqbal and Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). ECF No. 10 at 3 (citing Baltimore Line Handling Co. v. Brophy, 771 F.Supp.2d 531, 544 (D. Md. 2011)). Under that standard, courts must employ a "context-specific" inquiry, drawing on "judicial experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         Plaintiff cites cases finding that allegations of an entity's control by named individuals similar to those made here were sufficient to deny motions to dismiss claims against the individuals or to find them liable at summary judgment or on default judgment. ECF No. 12-3 at 5-7. But none of these cases control the holding of this Court, and Plaintiff does not cite any authority that does. In the absence of controlling case law, disagreement among district courts about the plausibility and adequacy of similarly worded pleadings is to be expected given that courts must draw on "judicial experience and common sense" in making these determinations. Such differences in outcome do not rise to the level of "clear error" unless the court patently misunderstands a party, makes a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the Court, or made an error of apprehension rather than of reasoning. Letren, 2016 WL 8673871, at *2 (quoting Wagner, 2016 WL 1169937, at *3). Plaintiff can identify no such error here.[2]

         Plaintiff next argues that the Court erred in declining to award enhanced statutory damages. ECF No. 12-3 at 7-11. Under the Federal Cable Act, a court may increase the award of damages for violation of the Act by up to $100, 000 "if the court finds that the violation was committed willfully and for purposes of direct or indirect commercial advantage or private financial gain." 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(C)(ii). Plaintiffs arguments primarily concern the rationality of granting enhanced damages in this case ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.