What is an injunction?

An injunction is an order issued by a court that forces the defendant––a person, corporation or government entity––to do something or stop doing something, depending on what the plaintiff is requesting. In relatively rare cases, the court may issue a mandatory injunction, compelling a person, company, or governmental unit to take affirmative action in carrying out a specified action.

When a plaintiff decides to file a lawsuit, they must specify what type of legal remedy (or relief) they are asking the court to grant them. While many plaintiffs seek money to compensate them for their injury, some injuries require a different type of legal remedy. Instead of asking a court for monetary damages, a plaintiff could ask the court for an injunction (or injunctive relief) against the defendant. The extent of the injunction and the procedures for obtaining it are generally set out in your state’s rules of civil procedure. Any plaintiff seeking an injunction should first consult with an experienced attorney.

Purpose of an Injunction

Injunctive relief is appropriate to prevent an action, to put a stop to ongoing or repeated conduct that violates a person's rights or causes injury, or to force a defendant to take action in order to prevent harm. It is important to note that when you file a lawsuit you may request both money damages and injunctive relief if both are necessary for an appropriate legal remedy; you may have filed a lawsuit with a request for money damages, but because the defendant continued to act in bad form, the continued violation of your rights shows that money damages are not sufficient to stop or deter a defendant and it seems you will need an injunction as well. For example, if you own a website and another firm is continually copying the material on your site in violation of copyright notices and contractual provisions, then a court can award money damages and issue an injunction to prevent that conduct from recurring.

Injunctive relief is generally considered a legal remedy of last resort, so when you file a lawsuit you must show that you need the injunction because no other remedies are adequate for your situation either because the subject of the lawsuit is unique or money is not enough to deter bad behavior. For example, suppose you own a home surrounded by 100-year-old trees and your neighbor claims the trees are on his property and is planning on cutting them down. While the dispute is pending, the court will likely issue an injunction preventing your neighbor from cutting down the trees until the matter is heard and completely resolved. The injunction would be appropriate because money damages cannot replace 100-year-old trees. Essentially, you must show that an irreparable harm will occur if the injunction is not granted.

How to Get an Injunction

An injunction begins with a petition requesting the court to grant injunctive relief. Because the petition is usually the beginning of a lawsuit, you will be required to pay a filing fee. Depending on the extent of the legal remedy you are requesting, the court may also require you to post a bond. If the court approves your request for an injunction, the court can order the defendant to temporarily do something or stop doing something they are doing until a final hearing can be held. This initial injunction is called a temporary injunction because it only lasts for a specified time period until a hearing can determine the appropriate legal remedy.

At a final hearing, both sides are allowed to present evidence to the court. After the court hears evidence from both sides at a final hearing, the court will then decide whether the injunction should only be temporary or permanent depending on the issues surrounding the need for the original injunction. Before you file a lawsuit, you may want to consult with an attorney to review which type of legal remedy is best suited for your injuries. If you forget to ask for a particular type of legal remedy when you file a lawsuit, you could potentially loose the opportunity to ask for it a later time.