Civ. No. 99-1327, SECTION: J (4).
February 10, 2000.
Before the Court is the Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings and for Sanctions (Rec. Doc. 11) filed by defendants. Plaintiff opposes the motion. The motion, set for hearing on February 2, 2000, is before the Court on briefs without oral argument.
Plaintiff filed suit on April 29, 1999, alleging that under 47 U.S.C. § 553, 605 et seq, defendants unlawfully intercepted and exhibited the De La Hoya/Rivera pay-per-view boxing match within the State of Louisiana on December 6, 1997.
In the motion, defendants contend that this suit is subject to a one year prescriptive period and has prescribed because the suit was filed almost one and a half years after the alleged. tortuous conduct. Additionally, defendants argue that sanctions are appropriate because plaintiff's counsel should have been aware of the unequivocal jurisprudence that this type of action is subject to a one year prescriptive period.
Plaintiff counters that the appropriate prescriptive period is three years under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 501. Alternatively, plaintiff maintains that if the Court does not find the three year prescriptive period to be applicable, then the appropriate limitations period should be the ten year period for residual personal causes of action under Louisiana Civil Code article 3499, since pirating a telecommunications signal does not sound in tort or resemble any other state statute.
The standard of review for motion for judgment on pleadings is similar to that under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b) (6). Therefore, the court must look only at the pleadings and accept them as true. St. Paul Ins. of Bellaire v. AFIA Worldwide Ins. Co., 937 F.2d 274, 279 (5th Cir. 1991).
In deciding the applicable prescriptive period, the Court must initially find whether an explicit limitations period governs Section 605. North Star Steel Co. v. Thomas, 515 U.S. 29, 33-34, 115 S.Ct. 1927, 132 L.Ed.2d 27 (1995). If no explicit limitations period exists, then the Court next determines whether state law provides an analogous limitations period. Id. The Court will then apply the state law analog absent a showing that enforcing the state prescriptive period would create "frustrating consequences" to federal policy. Id. at 35.
As an initial matter, the Court finds that there is no explicit statute of limitations for plaintiff's Section 553 and 605 claims.Joe Hand Promotions, Inc. v. Larry W. Lott, 971 F. Supp. 1058, 1062 (E.D. La. 1997). In the parties' briefings, both plaintiff and defendants agree that no explicit limitations period exists.
Next, the Court addresses whether Louisiana law provides a limitation period for a state law cause of action analogous to plaintiff's claims. Joe Hand Promotions, 971 F. Supp. at 1062. The Court concludes that plaintiff's claims are akin to conversion because plaintiff seeks monetary damages for defendants' alleged appropriation of plaintiff's property. Id. Under Louisiana law, conversion is a delictual action and subject to a one year limitations period. Id.
In its opposition, plaintiff argues from two positions. First, plaintiff maintains that the Court should borrow the limitations period from federal law, namely, the Copyright Act, because it is more analogous to his claims than any state law claims. In the alternative, plaintiff submits that Louisiana Civil Code article 3499 which provides for a ten year residual prescription for personal actions should apply.
The Court rejects both of plaintiff's arguments. The Supreme Court has addressed plaintiff's first argument and held that when confronted with an analogous state law claim and federal law claim for determining the applicable limitations period, and the "[s]tate counterpart provides a limitations period without frustrating consequences, it is simply beside the point that even a perfectly good federal analogue exists." North Star Steel, 515 U.S. at 37. Thus, state law is clearly preferred, and federal law is a "secondary lender." Id. at 34.
Plaintiff's second argument is similarly unavailing. In Elzy v. Roberson, 868 F.2d 793, 794 (5th Cir. 1989), the Fifth Circuit held that "[a]lthough Louisiana has a residual ten-year prescriptive period for personal actions, article 3499, it does not apply to tort actions." Because the Court finds that the analogous state law claim is conversion, a tort, article 3499 is inapposite. Thus, the Court finds that the ten year period does not apply, and the most analogous limitations period in regards to plaintiff's claim is Louisiana's one year delictual period.
Finally, the Court must determine whether this one year delictual period would frustrate federal policy. A federal policy would be frustrated if the state law provided a short period for the suit. Joe Hand Promotions, 971 F. Supp. at 1063. Louisiana's one year prescriptive period is not of such short duration which would frustrate federal policy. DelCostello v. Teamsters, 462 U.S. 151, 103 S.Ct. 2281, 76 L.Ed.2d 476 (1983) (holding that a statute of limitations of 90 days frustrated federal policy). Therefore, the Court finds that the one year limitations period is applicable to plaintiff's claims, that plaintiff's claims are prescribed, and that defendants are entitled to judgment pursuant to Rule 12(c).
In its motion, defendants have also moved for sanctions against plaintiff's counsel for bringing an action which counsel knew or should have known was prescribed. The Court admonishes defendants that a motion for sanctions should be filed in a separate pleading from any other motion. Fed. Rules Civ. Pro. 11. Defendants' failure to do this merits denial. Further, the Court finds that plaintiff's conduct does not rise to a sanctionable level. Thomas v. Capital Security Service, Inc., 836 F.2d 866, 877 (5th Cir. 1988).
IT IS ORDERED that defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings should be and hereby is GRANTED and all claims against defendants are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendants' Motion for Sanctions should be and hereby is DENIED.