Fifth Circuit reverses summary judgment in sports production media company lawsuit against pizza restaurant

By Galia Binder | May 21, 2014

NEW ORLEANS - A federal appeals court has upheld the appeal of a restaurant owner after he was sued by a sports production company for allegedly showing a boxing match at his establishment without authorization.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded the District Court Northern District of Texas’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiff, siding with the defendant.

In December of 2007, the WBC Welterweight Championship Fight featuring Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. v. Ricky Hatton was broadcasted live at Samuel Mandell III’s Greenville Avenue Pizza Company, his restaurant in Dallas. The right to broadcast the fight was held by many companies, including Time Warner Cable and the plaintiff, J&J Sports Productions. The restaurant had a “Commerical Services” agreement with Time Warner and received regular cable from the company. Greenville Avenue purchased a pay-per-view broadcast of the fight and showed it for customers as part of a normal business day, without advertising or charging entry fee to see the fight.

In December of 2010, J&J Sports Productions filed suit against Mandell, representing Mandell Family Ventures L.L.C. and doing business as Greenville Avenue Pizza Company.  J&J alleged Mandell failed to pay a licensing fee to J&J that would allow the restaurant to lawfully show the fight. The District Court granted J&J’s motion for summary judgment, awarding the company $350 and attorney’s fees of $27,780.30. This summary judgment entails a judgment entered by a court for J&J and against Mandell without a full trial. Mandell appealed.

The Fifth Circuit held that summary judgments are only appropriate when there is no possible question as to what events in the case occurred and what facts can be gleaned from their happenings.  The Fifth Circuit has identified a factual dispute in one of J&J’s claims and therefore rejects the district court’s application of summary judgment.

The dispute involved a statute imposing liability for intercepting and/or receiving unauthorized cable service, but exempts liability for those who receive authorization from a cable operator. J&J had accused Mandell of receiving unauthorized service, as J&J was the license holder for the fight’s broadcast. Mandell claimed he was immune from the charges, because Time Warner, a licensed cable operator, authorized him to show the fight.

While J&J had argued that Time Warner was not licensed to show the fight, the Fifth Circuit held that J &J did not meet the necessary burden of proof to demonstrate its claims are indisputably factual. Further, J&J constructed the same argument according to a radio communications statute, which the Fifth Circuit deemed irrelevant.

The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment and sent the case back for further processing.

Case no. 13-10485.

More News

The Record Network