Anglo-American law seeks to provide legal relief by monetary damages whenever possible. The recurring theme is that whatever the harm is, an appropriate award of money can normally remedy it and a monetary award is a less complex methodology for the court to enforce.
But a small minority of cases are recognized by the Courts as requiring extraordinary relief beyond monetary damages or in addition to monetary damages and if the complaining party meets an arduous barrier of preconditions, the courts are empowered to grant what is called “equitable” relief and may also be termed “injunctive relief.”
In its most basic form, an injunction is a legal remedy which orders a party or entity to perform some act or stop doing some act. Courts are notoriously reluctant to grant injunctive relief unless monetary relief somehow cannot achieve appropriate relief. The Courts impose a heavy burden on the plaintiff to overcome to achieve injunctive relief and require certain factors to be met before it can be awarded.
The Legal Requirements for Injunctive Relief:
In order for a Court to issue an injunction, certain legal requirements must be met. Regardless of the type of law at issue, the decision whether to grant an injunction is generally based on balancing four key factors:
- Whether there is a reasonable likelihood that the lawsuit will be a success, based on the merits of the case;
- Whether the plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted and that there is inadequate remedy at law, meaning that monetary compensation would be insufficient.
- Whether the balance of hardships are in the plaintiff’s favor; The plaintiff must demonstrate by clear evidence that without the injunction, the damages plaintiff will suffer will far outweigh the damages that the defendant will suffer if the injunction is issued.
- The injunction will have a favorable impact on the interests of the public (or, at the least, no significant unfavorable impact):
- When considering the injunction, the court will look at all facts of the case, including hearing arguments from both the plaintiff and the defendant.
In analyzing the above criteria, the Courts will place the burden on plaintiff to prove to the Court’s satisfaction that the plaintiff has met the above criteria. And the plaintiff will have to explain to the Court why monetary damages will not adequately provide relief.
As an example, if I am going to lose a large and valued customer because a supplier will not alter the priorities as to which of his customers get priority on a scare product so my delivery is weeks away instead of days and I seek an injunction from the court forcing my supplier to provide the materials soon before I lose my very valuable customer, the Court is likely to advise me that I can be made whole by monetary damages. The Court will likely rule that I could sue if there is a breach of contract, prove what lost profits I am going to suffer, and get a monetary reward. I must have a credible argument to the Court as to why money will not be enough to make me whole in this instance.
Types of Injunctive Relief:
- The Temporary Restraining Order (Code Civ. Proc. §§527, 528).
A temporary restraining order is an emergency injunction that helps ensure the individual requesting the injunctive relief is protected from the actions of the other party. It “restrains” the other party from taking some act or that party will face contempt of court.
Note that a temporary restraining order is an ex parte proceeding, which means that the request for restraining order is made without the other party’s knowledge, and it is issued, or denied, by the judge without a hearing. The other party is not part of the process at all.
Because, by nature, ex parte proceedings are granted if at all without the other party having a right to respond first, temporary restraining orders are required to be temporary, usually lasting only 10 days or less.
At the time this temporary order is issued, a hearing is scheduled to allow both parties to present their case for or against the injunction. It is at this hearing that the judge with determine whether the injunctive should be extended, or even made permanent.
You own a home and discover that the neighbor is planning to tear down your fence to widen his driveway, claiming your fence intrudes upon his land. The fence is used by you not only for privacy but to keep your children safe and in the yard. Construction begins in two days.
You are desperate to stop the construction and your relief would be filing an ex parte request for temporary restraining order to prevent the fence removal until the matter can be properly resolved.
Because the damage done by removing the fence could not be undone, or properly recompensed given the danger to the children, there is a good chance the judge will grant a temporary restraining order and schedule a hearing on the matter to be held as quickly as possible.
- Preliminary Injunctive Relief (Code Civ. Proc. §527)
Preliminary injunctive relief provides protection similar to a temporary restraining order, but, unlike the temporary relief available using an ex parte temporary restraining order, the matter will be heard in court with all interested parties having a right to be heard. Preliminary injunctive relief commonly stops the specified action until the matter has been eventually resolved in court. In issuing a preliminary injunction, the court does not make a final determination on the merits of the case but seeks to prevent one party from suffering irreparable loss while the matter is in litigation. As discussed previously, the plaintiff will have to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that the lawsuit will be a success, based on the merits of the case along with the other legal requirements discussed earlier.
It is common for the court, when issuing a preliminary injunction, to require the party requesting the injunction to post a bond to ensure the other party is compensated in the event it is later determined that the injunction is not necessary or proper. Such bonds can be expensive and must remain in place as long as the preliminary injunction is in effect. The bonds charge a premium which is due regardless of the outcome and if the bonding company must pay out, they normally will look to the party to reimburse them.
- Permanent Injunctive Relief (Civ. Code §§3420, 3422)
Permanent injunctive relief occurs when a temporary injunction is subsequently later made part of the final judgment in a civil lawsuit. In such a case, the injunction becomes permanent, and is effective for the life of the enjoined party, unless a modification is sought from the court at some point in the future. Normally a bond is not required but such an injunction normally occurs only after the full trial of the underlying action.
Particular Statutory Grounds for Injunctive Relief:
In cases involving certain relationships or certain types of facts, statutes have been passed giving the court particular powers to enjoin a party. Some, but not all, are listed below:
- To prevent harassment [Code Civ. Proc. §527.6, CRC 363] or domestic violence [Civ. Code §§4359, 5102, Code Civ. Proc. §§540–553, CRC 1225];
- to preserve peace and property during marital dissolution proceedings [Civ. Code §4359];
- to preserve peace during Uniform Parentage Act proceedings [Civ. Code §7020];
- to restrain expenditure or waste of public funds or property [Code Civ. Proc. §526a];
- to enjoin concerted acts of violence [Code Civ. Proc. §527.7], or to prohibit unlawful violence or threats of violence in the workplace [Code Civ. Proc. §527.8];
- to restrain fraudulent conveyances [Civ. Code §3439.07];
- to prohibit false advertising [Bus. & Prof. Code §§17531.9, 17535];
- to abate a nuisance [see, for example, Code Civ. Proc. §731(nuisance), Health & Saf. Code §§100170 (public health), 116670 (drinking water), Wat. Code §13304(pollution)];
- to enjoin waste pending foreclosure [Code Civ. Proc. §745];
- to prevent the use of a misleading corporate name [Corp. Code §201];
- in the context of the breach of a marketing contract [Corp. Code §13354];
- to enjoin health and safety violations [Health & Saf. Code §§1291 (unlicensed health facility), 116670(drinking water), 5460 (sewage disposal), 114735 (radioactive waste)];
- in the context of labor disputes [Lab. Code §§1116(jurisdictional strikes), 1126 (enforcement of collective bargaining agreement)];
- to suspend the powers of the executor of a prior will [Prob. Code §9614];
- to prevent wasteful production of natural gas [Pub. Res. Code §3314];
- in the context of water rights [see Code Civ. Proc. §534(actions to enjoin diversion), Wat. Code §§1052 (unlawful diversion), 1845(enforcement of cease and desist order), 2020 (restrain pumping of underground water), 4160(correcting distribution by watermaster), 13304 (pollution or nuisance)];
- to prevent unfair competition [Bus. & Prof. Code §§17200 et seq.];
- to stay criminal conduct which is a public nuisance [Civ. Code §§3369, 3480];
- to prevent the removal of public officers [Gov. Code §1366];
- to prevent breach of a statutorily specified contract that is not otherwise specifically enforceable [Code Civ. Proc. §526(b)(5)].
Equitable relief can also include any matter pertaining to real property. This is not necessarily an injunction. The rationale of the Courts is that real property is always unique so monetary damages can not fully compensate a party. Thus, I may seek to enforce a real property contract to purchase by asking the Court to grant the equitable relief of transferring title to me rather than awarding me monetary damages. This relief is termed, “Specific Performance,” and is not always injunctive relief.
Injunctive relief may be more difficult to obtain compared to monetary relief, but the granting of even temporary injunctive relief often has an immediate effect on the outlook of the parties and can lead to relatively rapid settlements or resolutions. And when there is danger of irreparable harm occurring during the months or years prior to a trial actually occurring, seeking injunctive relief may be the only way to obtain justice.
From a cost analysis, immediately seeking injunctive relief will compel all parties to expend significant sums at the beginning of the case. As one lawyer commented, it puts the cards on the table right away and forces all sides to come to the fore with their best arguments and evidence.
That said, it is a challenge for the party seeking injunctive relief to convince the Court to grant it and even if granted, can result in a bond requirement that is quite high.
Not a tool to be used without good legal analysis and an eye to cost benefit.