United States District Court, Middle District of Louisiana
J&J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS, INC.
THE TIGER PAW DAIQUIRIS & GRILL, LLC, ET AL.
RULING AND ORDER
BRIAN A. JACKSON, CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Before the Court is a Motion for Default Judgment Under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 55 (Doc. 27) filed by Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc. ("J&J"). J&J seeks a default judgment against Defendants The Tiger Paw Daiquiris & Grill, LLC ("Tiger Paw"), Robert J. Cazes, and Astro's Tiger Paw, Inc. ("Astro's"), collectively "Defendants." Defendants have not filed an opposition to the motion. Oral arguments are not necessary. Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons stated below, J&J's Motion for Default Judgment Under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 55 (Doc. 27) is GRANTED.
A. J&J's Allegations
On May 1, 2014, J&J filed this lawsuit against Tiger Paw and its codefendantsunder 47 U.S.C. § 605, et seq.\ 47 U.S.C. § 553, et seq.; and 18 U.S.C. §§ 2511(1)(a), (5), and 2520(a). (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 2, 19-33). J&J's Complaint alleges that on May 5, 2012, Masterson, Durr, Boies, Addington, Astro's, and Cazes "specifically and willfully" directed Tiger Paw's employees to illegally inteicept and broadcast in their commercial establishment a nationally telecast program for which J&J had exclusive nationwide commercial distribution and broadcast rights, and for which Defendants did not have sublicensing rights. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 15, 20, 21). J&J further alleges that Defendants unlawfully intercepted and broadcast the program "willfully and for the purposes of direct and/or indirect commercial advantage and/or private financial gain/' and with "full knowledge" that they were not authorized to do so. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 23, 24). J&J seeks statutory damages, attorney's fees, and costs under § 553 or § 605. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 28, 33, 34).
B. Procedural History
According to the proof of service affidavits filed into the record, Tiger Paw, Astro's, and Cazes were successfully served with summons notifying them that a lawsuit had been filed against them on May 15, 2014. (Docs. 6, 8, 9). The proof of service affidavits were filed into the record on June 14, 2014. (Id.). However, Defendants failed to file an Answer to the Complaint or a motion on or before June 5, 2014, thereby missing the twenty-one day deadline outlined in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule") 12; nor did Defendants request an extension of time to file an Answer or motion under Rule 12. Indeed, it is uncontested that Defendants have not yet filed any documents in this action.
On September 12, 2014, J&J filed a Motion for Clerk's Entry of Default against Defendants. (Doc. 22). J&J also filed an affidavit indicating that neither J&J nor its counsel had received any Answer or other opposition from Defendants. (Doc. 22-1). Rule 55 requires the Clerk of Court to enter a default against any party that has "failed to plead or otherwise defend . . ." against an action. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Accordingly, the Clerk of Court entered an Order of Default against Defendants on September 15, 2014. (Doc. 24). J&J followed by filing the motion for default judgment under consideration here on October 15, 2014. (Doc. 27).
II. Standard of Review
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has outlined a three step process to obtain a default judgment: (1) a defendant's default; (2) a clerk's entry of default; and (3) a plaintiffs application for a default judgment. See N.Y.Life Ins. Co. v. Brown, 84 F.3d 137, 141 (5th Cir. 1996). The service of summons or lawful process triggers the duty to respond to a complaint. Fagan v. Lawrence Nathan Assocs., 957 F.Supp.2d 784, 795 (E.D. La. 2013) (citing Rogers v. Hartford Life & Accident bis. Co., 167 F.3d 933, 937 (5th Cir. 1999)). A defendant's failure to timely plead or otherwise respond to the complaint triggers a default. N.Y. Life Ins. Co., 84 F.3d at 141. Rule 55 then provides that the clerk must enter a party's default "[w]hen a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend, and that failure is shown by affidavit or otherwise. . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a).
Once the Clerk of Court has found a defendant to be in default, the Court may, upon motion by the plaintiff, enter a default judgment against the defaulting defendant.Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(a). Default judgments are "generally disfavored in the law" in favor of a trial upon the merits. Lacy v. Sitel Corp., 227 F.3d 290, 292 (5th Cir. 2000) (quoting Mason & Hanger-Silas Mason Co. v. Metal Trades Council, 726 F.2d 166, 168 (5th Cir. 1984)). Default judgments are considered "a drastic remedy, not favored by the Federal Rules and resorted to by courts only in extreme situations .... [T]hey are 'available only when the adversary process has been halted because of an essentially unresponsive party." Sun Bank of Ocala v. Pelican Homestead & Sav. Ass'n, 874 F.2d 274, 276 (5th Cir. 1989) (quoting H.F. Livermore Corp. v. Aktiengesellschaft Gebruder Loepfe, 432 F.2d 689, 691 (D.C. Cir. 1970)). This policy however, is "counterbalanced by considerations of social goals, justice and expediency, a weighing process [that] lies largely within the domain of the trial judge's discretion." Rogers, 167 F.3d at 936 (internal citations omitted). In accordance with these guidelines, "[a] party is not entitled to a default judgment as a matter of right, even where the defendant is technically in default." Ganther v. Ingle, 75 F.3d 207, 212 (5th Cir. 1996); see also Nishimatsu Constr. Co. v. Hous. Nat'l Bank, 515 F.2d 1200, 1206 (5th Cir. 1975) ("[A] defendant's default does not in itself warrant the court in entering a default judgment. There must be a sufficient basis in the pleadings for the judgment entered."). While "the defendant, by his default, admits the plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations of fact, " the Court retains the obligation to determine whether those facts state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Nishimatsu Constr. Co., 515 F.2d at 1206; see Lewis v. Lynn, 236 F.3d 766, 767 (5th Cir. 2001) (affirming the district court's denial of a default judgment because, even if the plaintiffs factual allegations were found to be true, the defendants would not have been liable under the law).
A. Whether the Court Will Grant J&J's Motion for Default Judgment
Courts have developed a two-part analysis to determine whether a default judgment should be entered against a defendant. Taylor v. City of Baton Rouge, 39 F.Supp.3d 807, 813 (M.D. La. 2014); United States v. Chauncey, No. 14-CV-32, 2015 WL 403130, at *1 (M.D. La. Jan. 28, 2015); see also Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Company v. Unknown Tr. of Revocable Trust-8407, No. 13-CV-412-PRM, 2014 WL 2091257, at *2 (W.D. Tex. May 16, 2014) (citing cases). First, the court must consider whether the entry of default judgment is appropriate under the circumstances. See Lindsey v. Prive Corp., 161 F.3d 886, 893 (5th Cir. 1998). The factors relevant to this inquiry include: (1) whether material issues of fact are at issue; (2) whether there has been substantial prejudice; (3) whether the grounds for default are clearly established; (4) whether the default was caused by good faith mistake or excusable neglect; (5) the harshness of a default judgment; and (6) whether the court would ...