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J&J Sports Productions Inc. v. Ward

November 17, 2010

J&J SPORTS PRODUCTIONS INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHERNAKEIA WARD, INDIVIDUALLY AND DOING BUSINESS AS KEYA'S CORP., DOING BUSINESS AS FISCHER'S SPORTS BAR & GRILL, AND KEYA'S CORP., DOING BUSINESS AS FISCHER'S SPORTS BAR & GRILL, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion to Strike (Doc. 10). Plaintiff filed a Response (Doc. 21-1) thereto, to which Defendants submitted a Reply (Doc. 11).

For the following reasons, the Court DENIES the instant motion.

BACKGROUND

I. Facts

For purposes of a motion to dismiss, courts must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the plaintiff. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007); Tricontinental Indus., Ltd. v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 475 F.3d 824, 833 (7th Cir. 2007). The Court, accepting all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in its favor, finds as follows:

Plaintiff J&J Sports Productions, Inc. (hereinafter "J&J"), a commercial distributor of sporting events primarily conducting business out of Campbell, California, paid for and received the exclusive nationwide television distribution rights to "Unfinished Business" Manny Pacquiao v. Juan Manuel Marquez II, WBC Super Featherweight Championship Fight Program (hereinafter "the Program"). Airing on March 15, 2008, the Program not only included the title bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez II but all under-card bout and fight commentary that accompanied its broadcast. J&J expended a substantial amount of money in marketing, promoting, administering, and, ultimately, transmitting the Program.

With its exclusive distribution rights in hand, J&J entered into numerous sublicensing agreements with a variety of commercial entities throughout the country. These agreements granted said entities the right to publicly exhibit the Program to patrons within their respective establishments (i.e., bars, taverns, casinos, hotels, racetracks, etc.). One entity that did not enter into a sublicensing agreement with J&J was Defendant Keya's Corp., which operates a sports bar and grill in Cahokia, Illinois. Despite knowledge that the Program was not to be intercepted, received, and exhibited unless they entered into a sublicensing agreement with J&J, Keya's Corp. and its principal, Defendant Shernakeia Ward (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Defendants"), willfully exhibited the Program at the time of its transmission in order to privately profit. In response, J&J eventually brought suit in this Court.

II. Relevant Procedural Posture

On March 12, 2010, J&J filed its Complaint (Doc. 2), which remains the operative pleading in this case. J&J asserts that Defendants are jointly and severally liable by way of the following three legal claims: 1) violation of 47 U.S.C. § 605, et seq., addressing unauthorized publication or use of communications (Count I); 2) violation of 47 U.S.C. § 553, et seq., addressing unauthorized reception of cable services (Count II); and, 3) conversion (Count III). With respect to the claim for tortious conversion, J&J seeks compensatory damages and attorneys' fees and costs.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), Defendants now move to dismiss the claim for tortious conversion. Alternatively, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), Defendants move to strike J&J's prayer for attorneys' fees in its conversion claim.

ANALYSIS

Following a general overview of the law governing motions to dismiss, the Court will address the tort of conversion and ...


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