Stopping Bad Behavior during the Case: Preliminary Injunctions
Lawsuits are a versatile tool in the business world. Although many lawsuits are focused on the past, trying to recover damages for some harm that has already occurred, they do not have to be. Sometimes, parties can bring a lawsuit seeking to stop someone from taking an action. This is known as seeking an injunction. Injunctions can prevent all sorts of actions, such as the use of a contested trademark, or the merger of a corporation. However, lawsuits that are trying to stop a future action create a new question: Can the defendant maintain their course of action while the lawsuit is ongoing? This issue gives rise to a special type of injunction, the preliminary injunction.
What Preliminary Injunctions Are
Preliminary injunctions act much like ordinary injunctions, which are also known as final injunctions. They stop the enjoined party from continuing with the contested action while the court decides the case. However, there are some key differences between final injunctions and preliminary injunctions. Preliminary injunctions differ from ordinary injunctions in both the time at which the court issues them and the amount of time that they are expected to last. Ordinary injunctive relief comes at the end of the case once all the facts have come out and the court has made its final decision. Preliminary injunctions can happen at any stage of the proceedings. Additionally, final injunctions can last for an indefinite amount of time, or they can expire at a specific point. Conversely, preliminary injunctions only last until the case is actually decided, at which point they may be replaced by a final injunction or they may be removed entirely.
Getting a Preliminary Injunction
The decision of whether to issue a preliminary injunction is somewhat complex because it involves potentially inhibiting a party’s freedom before all the facts have come out. This means that a court that issues a preliminary injunction runs the risk of preventing someone from doing something that it ultimately decides is lawful. Consequently, courts set a fairly high bar for the issuing of these types of injunctions.
The most recent Supreme Court case to discuss the factors that influence preliminary injunctions was Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., which centered around whether the Navy was allowed to engage in sonar exercises that had the potential to disrupt marine life. In this case, the Court laid out four factors that must all be met for a court to issue a preliminary injunction:
- There is a “substantial” likelihood that the party seeking the injunction will ultimately win the case;
- The party seeking the injunction is likely to suffer irreparable harm if the court does not issue the injunction;
- The balance of the equities rests with the side seeking the injunction, meaning that general notions of fairness push toward issuing the injunction; and
- The injunction is in the public interest.
If a party seeking an injunction can demonstrate all of these things, then they may qualify for a preliminary injunction.
If your business is facing a time-sensitive risk and you believe a preliminary injunction may help stop it, contact an experienced West Palm Beach business litigation attorney at Pike & Lustig, LLP today. Our firm is here to help you defend your company.