Injunctions are court orders that compel a party to take a specific action or refrain from doing something. They are considered to be equitable remedies because they address issues that cannot be remedied with monetary damages. Injunctions can be entered as a judgment order for an active lawsuit or can be filed as a separate request directly with the court.
There are three main types of injunctions:
- Temporary Restraining Order: These are the shortest injunctions that can be issued without a hearing to avoid irreparable harm. These generally have a 10 day time limit.
- Preliminary Injunction: These are generally issued at the beginning stages of a lawsuit and remain enforceable until final judgement is rendered.
- Permanent Injunction: These are usually issued at the end of a trial as part of the judgment order that apply after the lawsuit is over. A preliminary injunction may be converted to a permanent injunction is the plaintiff wins at trial.
A court will usually only award an injunction is the plaintiff has a reasonable chance of success on the merits of the case; there will be irreparable harm if an injunction is not ordered; the hardships are greater for the plaintiff if the injunction is not granted; and granting the injunction is favored by public interest.
Injunctions are frequently awarded in cases involving breach of contract and are often given in lieu of monetary damages. The non-breaching party may even be required to choose between a monetary damages award and an injunction. Some common contract claim injunctions include the following:
- A court may order the breaching party to perform their obligations under the contract. This could include making payments that were outlined under the contract.
- An order may prevent a party from performing a term under the contract, such as selling certain goods to the plaintiff.
- The court may order a breaching party to return goods to the plaintiff if they were not entitled to them under the contract. This could occur in a situation where a shipment contained too many items.
- A court order may require a sale to be carried out according to the contract price, such as with the sale of a home.
- An injunction may prohibit a party from seeking employment with certain companies. This is common in situations where an employee has signed a noncompete agreement.
If a party fails to follow the terms of an injunction order, they will face certain consequences. In a contract case, this will usually be money damages. For example, a party may be fined a set amount of money for each day that they fail to follow the court order. A party could also be held in contempt of court.
Injunctions can only be removed by a judge, and sometimes it is removed because it was requested by the person who benefitted from the injunction. However, typically an injunction is removed because it expired, as most injunctions have a timeframe.
Injunctions can last anywhere from as little as two weeks to six months, and it will completely depend on the court’s discretion. As mentioned above, the court will pick the length of time depending on how much protection it will give the plaintiff and how much burden it will put on the defendant.
The defendant can petition to the court if the injunction is too severe. For example, if the defendant is unable to work, due the injunction. How does this happen? If the injunction orders the defendant to stop all production in their factory, in order to stop the production of an item that could potentially violate copyright and trademark laws.
The factory also produces other items, but due to the injunction they cannot produce anything which means that they will not earn any income. This injunction would most likely be considered too harsh, and will be altered or removed.
The breaching party may sometimes be able to raise a defense if the plaintiff is seeking an injunction against them. This includes the following defenses:
- Unclean Hands: A plaintiff cannot obtain an injunction if they have engaged in similar misconduct as the defendant. Thus, if the plaintiff also breached a contract this defense may be available.
- Laches: This is available when a plaintiff intentionally delays asking the court for an injunction and the delay negatively affects the defendant.
- Hardship: An injunction may not be enforceable if it causes the defendant extreme or undue hardship, such as costing the defendant a large amount of money.
Contract claims can be hard to handle, especially when an injunction is needed. If you are filing an action for breach of contract and think you need an injunction, you should contact a local contracts attorney to assist you with your case and help you receive equitable relief in order to avoid further harm from occurring.