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Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Mooney's Pub Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

September 24, 2014

JOE HAND PROMOTIONS, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
MOONEY'S PUB INC., D/B/A MOONEY'S PUB AND MICHELLE BRUCE INDIVIDUALLY AND AS AN OFFICER, DIRECTOR, SHAREHOLDER) AND/OR PRINCIPAL OF MOONEY'S PUB INC., D/B/A MOONEY'S PUB, Defendant.

ORDER & OPINION

JOE BILLY McDADE, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Strike Complaint. (Doc. 4). For the reasons stated below, the Motion is denied.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed its Complaint on June 9, 2014, alleging that Defendants violated 47 U.S.C. §§ 553 and 605 ("the Cable Act") by exhibiting an Ultimate Fighting Championship match on April 21, 2012. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss and Strike Complaint on July 11, 2014. (Doc. 4). In their Motion, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against individual Defendant Michelle Bruce pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants also raise two affirmative defenses. (Doc. 7).

LEGAL STANDARDS

In ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "the court must treat all well-pleaded allegations as true and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party." In re marchFIRST Inc. , 589 F.3d 901, 904 (7th Cir. 2009). The complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff's complaint must contain sufficient detail to give notice of the claim, and the allegations must "plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a speculative level.'" EEOC v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc. , 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The plausibility standard requires enough facts "to present a story that holds together, " but does not require a determination of probability. Swanson v. Citibank, N.A. , 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010). Though detailed factual allegations are not needed, a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. , 550 U.S. at 555.

Ordinarily it is premature for courts to consider unpleaded affirmative defenses at the motion to dismiss stage, because "complaints do not have to anticipate affirmative defenses to survive a motion to dismiss." United States v. Lewis , 411 F.3d 838, 842 (2005)(citation omitted). However, there is an exception when a complaint's allegations "set forth everything necessary to satisfy the affirmative defense." Id. In such circumstances, the Seventh Circuit characterizes these motions as Rule 12(c) motions for judgment on the pleadings, in spite of the fact that they are filed before the pleadings are closed. See Brownmark Films, LLC v. Comedy Partners , 682 F.3d 687, 690 (7th Cir. 2012).

A motion for judgment on the pleadings under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) is analyzed under the same standard as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). United States v. Wood , 925 F.2d 1580, 1581 (7th Cir. 1991); see also Brooks v. Ross , 578 F.3d 574, 579 (2009) (noting that the practical effect of addressing a statute of limitations defense in a Rule 12(c) motion is the same as addressing it in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion). Thus, all well-pleaded facts in the operative complaint are taken as true and all reasonable inferences drawn in the plaintiff's favor. See Thomas v. Guardsmark, Inc. , 381 F.3d 701, 704 (7th Cir. 2004).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

Plaintiff, Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. ("Joe Hand"), is a Pennsylvania corporation that owns the distribution rights to the UFC 145: Jones v. Evans broadcast and all of its undercard bouts, which was scheduled for April 21, 2012. The broadcast originated via satellite uplink, and was retransmitted to both closed-circuit cable systems and satellite companies.

Joe Hand limited public exhibition of the broadcast by entering into contracts with various entities in Illinois that granted them the right to exhibit it. Defendant Mooney's Pub is a Peoria, Illinois entity that did not have authorization to exhibit the broadcast, but it did so anyway on April 21, 2012. Defendant Michelle Bruce had supervisory capacity and control over the activities occurring within Mooney's on that day, and she received financial benefit from Mooney's operations.

Joe Hand alleges two alternative causes of action because it is unsure of the manner in which Defendants obtained the broadcast at this point. If Defendants intercepted the signal via a cable system, Joe Hand alleges they violated 47 U.S.C. § 553. But if Defendants intercepted the signal via satellite transmission, Joe Hand alleges they violated 47 U.S.C. § 605.

Defendants raise three separate arguments in their Motion to Dismiss and Strike the Complaint. First, they argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against Michelle Bruce because the allegations that she is "an Officer, Director, Shareholder, and/or Principal" and that she had "supervisory capacity and control over the activities occurring within the Establishment on April 21, 2012" are insufficient to establish liability under §§ 553 and 605. Second, they argue that Plaintiff does not have capacity to sue in this Court because it is not registered to do business in the State of Illinois. Third, they argue that the action is barred by the statute of limitations. For reasons addressed below, these arguments are unpersuasive and Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and Strike the Complaint is denied.

Plaintiff's Complaint against Michelle Bruce

Defendants seek to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint against Michelle Bruce, putting forth the abbreviated argument that the allegations that she is "an Officer, Director, Shareholder, and/or Principal" and that she was the individual "with supervisory capacity and control over the activities occurring within the Establishment on April 21, 2013" are insufficient to establish individual liability. Plaintiff responds by arguing that its complaint contains sufficient ...


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