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LHF Productions Inc. v. Grubb

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 5, 2017

LHF Productions, Inc., a Nevada corporation, Plaintiff,
Frank and Jane Doe Grubb; David and Jane Doe Benavidez; Coralyn and Jane Doe Schultz; Shawn and Jane Doe Burnish; and Dale and Jane Doe Fuller, all Arizona residents. Defendants.


          Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge

         Plaintiff LHF Productions has moved for default judgment against Defendants Frank and Marie Grubb pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b). (Doc. 42.) No response has been filed and the time for filing one has passed. For reasons stated below, default judgment is appropriate.

         I. Background

         LHF owns the copyright to the 2016 action thriller "London Has Fallen." LHF alleges that Defendants unlawfully copied and distributed the movie using a network called a "BitTorrent protocol, " where users can turn media into digital files and transfer them to their computers and share them with others online. LHF brought a copyright infringement suit against the then-unknown defendants in August 2016. (Doc. 1.) The amended complaint filed three months later identifies Defendants by name and asserts claims for direct and contributory copyright infringement. (Doc. 14 ¶¶ 49-63.) LHF seeks injunctive relief, actual or statutory damages, and an award of attorneys' fees and costs. (Id. at 13-14.)

         LHF served process on Frank Grubb and his wife Marie on November 14, 2016. (Doc. 20.) Following the transfer of the case on January 9, 2017, the Court directed LHF to file a status report given that the Grubbs were served with process but no answer or application for default had been filed. (Docs. 28, 32.) LHF subsequently filed an application, and the Clerk entered the Grubbs' default on January 20. (Docs. 35, 36.)

         One month later, the Court gave LHF fourteen days to file a motion for default judgment or show good cause for an extension of time to do so. (Doc. 38.) LHF filed the present motion on March 9. (Doc. 42.)

         II. Default Judgment

         After default is entered by the clerk, the district court may enter default judgment pursuant to Rule 55(b). The court's "decision whether to enter a default judgment is a discretionary one." Aldabe v. Aldabe, 616 F.2d 1089, 1092 (9th Cir. 1980). Although the court should consider and weigh relevant factors as part of the decision-making process, it "is not required to make detailed findings of fact." Fair Housing of Marin v. Combs, 285 F.3d 899, 906 (9th Cir. 2002).

         The following factors may be considered in deciding whether default judgment is appropriate: (1) the possibility of prejudice to the plaintiff, (2) the merits of the claims, (3) the sufficiency of the complaint, (4) the amount of money at stake, (5) the possibility of factual disputes, (6) whether default is due to excusable neglect, and (7) the policy favoring decisions on the merits. See Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d 1470, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1986). In considering the merits and sufficiency of the complaint, the court accepts as true the complaint's well-pled factual allegations, but the plaintiff must establish all damages sought in the complaint. See Geddes v. United Fin. Group, 559 F.2d 557, 560 (9th Cir. 1977).

         A. Possible Prejudice to Plaintiff

         The first Eitel factor weighs in favor of default judgment. The Grubb Defendants failed to respond to the complaint or otherwise appear in this action despite being served with the complaint, the application for default, and the motion for default judgment. If default judgment is not granted, LHF "will likely be without other recourse for recovery." PepsiCo, Inc. v. Cal. Sec. Cans, 238 F.Supp.2d 1172, 1177 (CD. Cal. 2002). The prejudice to LHF in this regard supports the entry of default judgment.

         B. Merits of the Claims and Sufficiency of the Complaint

         The second and third Eitel factors favor default judgment where, as in this case, the complaint sufficiently states a plausible claim for relief under the pleading standards of Rule 8. See Id. at 1175; Danning v. Lavine, 572 F.2d 1386, 1388-89 (9th Cir. 1978). A review of the complaint's well-pled allegations shows that LHF has stated a plausible claim for relief against the Grubb Defendants.

         Under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 106, the owner of a copyright has exclusive rights to reproduce, display, and distribute the copyrighted work. Infringement occurs when a person violates any of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner as provided by [§] 106." 17 U.S.C. § 501(a). To state valid copyright infringement claims, plaintiffs must allege two elements: "(1) they must show ownership of the allegedly infringed material and (2) they must demonstrate that the alleged infringers violate at least one exclusive right ...

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