If you own a small restaurant or bar, and you’ve shown a pay-per-view boxing match on your television, chances are, you’ve received a letter from J&J Sports Productions, Inc. alleging that you’ve somehow illegally received a satellite transmission of the fight. The letter you received might discuss violations of 47 U.S.C. § 553 and/or 47 U.S.C. § 605. The letter might also warn you that you face statutory penalties of $100,000.00.
And you’re probably a little confused.
After all, if you’re like a lot of people who end up getting sued by J&J, you ordered the fight from your provider, and your provider told you the cost was, say, $65. Certainly not the $100,000 that J&J thinks you should pay.
There’s a lot going on here, and you should know at least two things about J&J:
- Ignoring the letter won’t really help. J&J files a lot of lawsuits. According to PACER, since 2005, there have been at least 3,111 cases filed against bar and restaurant owners all across the country. 22 cases were filed this week alone: one on Monday in Arizona; 15 on Tuesday in Arizona, Arkansas, and California; and six on Wednesday in California.
- J&J is heavily committed to the litigation. In one Northern District of California case, J&J won a favorable recommendation for a default judgment from a United States Magistrate Judge. J&J Sports Prods. v. Bracamontes, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36726 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 15, 2012). J&J didn’t like that the Magistrate Judge recommended only $2,400 in damages instead of the $111,200 it sought. J&J then filed an objection to the recommendation with the District Court, along for a request for a de novo review. The District Court determined that J&J had actually not established enough damages that the fight in question was the fight referenced in its supporting evidence for the default judgment. J&J Sports Prods. Inc. v. Bracamontes, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 125329 (N.D. Cal. Sep. 4, 2012). As a result, the District Court wiped out the recommendation and sent the case back to the Magistrate Judge. J&J fixed the evidentiary problems, and the Magistrate Judge again recommended $2,400 in damages. J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Bracamontes, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 186965 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 13, 2012). J&J again objected to the report and sought enhanced damages claiming that $2,400 did not serve as a sufficient deterrent. The District Court declined to enhance the damages and entered the default judgment as the Magistrate Judge recommended. J&J Sports Prods., Inc. v. Bracamontes, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 38480 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 19, 2013). While federal courts in California admittedly use the Magistrate Judges regularly, it’s still pretty notable that four opinions stemmed from one motion for default judgment.
If you’ve received a letter from J&J Sports Productions, contact me as soon as possible so we can discuss your options.