An injunction is a court order. The Court tells a person to either do something or not to do something. When the Court tells a person to do something, it is referred to as a “Mandatory Injunction”. When the Court tells a person not to do something it is a “Prohibitory Injunction”. In some cases the court order/injunction directs a person simply to maintain the status quo. Commonwealth Ex. Rel. Bowyer v. Sweet Briar Inst., 2015 W.L. 3646914.
Injunctions May Be Temporary,Preliminary, Permanent
Injunctions are either temporary, preliminary or permanent. A temporary injunction is also called a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). A Temporary Restraining Order is temporary in the sense that it spans only a short period of time. The purpose of such an order is to maintain the status quo. Thje purpose may also or to prevent further injury. The court then has the opportunity to conduct a more thorough hearing. The goal is to determine whether or not a preliminary injunction should be entered.
A preliminary injunction may then follow a restraining order. A preliminary injunction covers a longer period of time. Typically a preliminary injunction stays in effect until there is a final hearing. At the time of the final hearing or trial a permanent injunction either is entered or not entered. A permanent injunction is, as the name implies, permanent. That means that the court order is in effect until such time as the court vacates the order.
Injunctions Involve Violation Of A Right
The general basis for the entry of an injunction is that there must be proof of a right. There must also be a violation of that right. That is, the plaintiff asserts a right. The plaintiff further asserts that the defendant has violated that right. If there is an adequate remedy at law, the court will not grant an injunction. A remedy at law means that an award of money damages will compensate the plaintiff. The plaintiff brings the claim. If such an award of money damages (an award at law) suffices then the court will not grant an injunction.
Mandatory Injunctions Are Difficult To Obtain
Courts are also concerned about how to enforce injunctions. Enforcement of mandatory injunctions is very difficult. A mandatory injunction requires some degree of court supervision. The court wants to make sure that the person to whom it is directed is in fact complying. It is much easier for a court to enter a prohibitory injunction. A prohibitory injunction simply directs a person not to do something. In deciding whether or not to enter an injunction the court balances several factors.The court looks at a balance of the hardships. That is, who is hurt more by the refusing or granting of the injunction. If the injunction relates to an employment agreement is the employer simply hurt in terms of monetary losses? The court will consider that. That then is weighed against the effect on the employee. If the employee is put out of work, the court must consider that. The employee being out of work with no income is probably a more significant hardship than the employer simply losing some income. As such in that instance the balance of hardships weighs in favor of the employee.
In general there are four (4) different criteria that the court looks at in granting an injunction:
- The overall likelihood of the plaintiff winning.
- Is there irreparable harm that the plaintiff will suffer?
- In balancing the equities or the hardships, who is hurt more?
- Is there any public interest involved? The public interest may be seen in such things as whether one party will have to go on unemployment compensation or otherwise seek public benefits. Is there some impact on tax revenue to the state or locality? Is there going to be some other effect on the public as a whole?
The U.S. Supreme Court defined these criteria in Winter v. Nat’l Res. Def. Council, Inc., 129 S.Ct. 365 (2008).
A type of injunction that is sometimes sought in regards to real estate transactions is an Order of Specific Performance. An Order of Specific Performance directs a seller to sell a piece of real estate to a buyer. Real estate is unique. Normally the court does not like to enter these types of mandatory injunctions. If however there is a valid contract between the parties, then the court may consider ordering specific performance on the contract.The court will also look at whether there is an adequate remedy at law. That is, whether the plaintiff will be fully compensated through an award of money damages. The court will look at whether or not there are mutual obligations under the contract. In regards to a real estate transaction those mutual obligations are the payment of money for the real estate. That is, the seller receives the money. The buyer receives the real estate. As such there is mutual performance. In cases like that the court also looks at whether or not there are other defenses.A common defense in any claim for an injunction is whether or not the party bringing the claim is somehow at fault. If that party is at fault, that is has “unclean hands”, the court may consider that. That fault must have contributed to the problem. If those unclean hands are of such a nature that the court thinks the plaintiff should not win, then the court will deny the injunction.
Injunctions Are A Powerful Tool
Overall injunctions are a powerful tool. A court in Virginia has general authority to enter injunctions. Typically it is only circuit courts that enter injunctions. In some cases a general district court may enter an injunction. That court has limited authority to do so.
The granting or the denial of an injunction can be immediately appealed. The appeal is to the Virginia Supreme Court. That is different than with most other types of claims in Virginia. Most other claims have to be finally adjudicated before they become appealable. The granting or denial of an injunction may be immediately appealed.