Your business can suffer harm in a business dispute, whether with a third party or a former employee. Often, this harm cannot be repaired solely through a monetary award by the court.
In these instances, seeking injunctive relief may be your best remedy.
Injunctive relief is an equitable remedy designed to stop damaging behavior. An “equitable remedy” is an action that the court prescribes to resolve the breach or dispute when monetary compensation alone won’t set things right.
Injunctive relief is often sought when:
- Trade secrets are stolen or misappropriated;
- A non-compete agreement is violated;
- A former employee is stealing your clients;
- A business partner is misusing company assets;
- A licensing agreement has been breached and your intellectual property is being monetized by another party;
- A contract has been breached; or
- A minority shareholder in a closely held business (usually a family business) is terminated or excluded from the business.
How to Get Injunctive Relief
The first step in seeking injunctive relief is to file a lawsuit in the appropriate county. Governed by Section 15.002 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the suit shall be brought:
- in the county in which all or a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred;
- in the county of the defendant's residence at the time the cause of action accrued if the defendant is a natural person;
- in the county of the defendant's principal office in this state, if the defendant is not a natural person; or
- if Subdivisions (1), (2), and (3) do not apply, in the county in which the plaintiff resided at the time of the accrual of the cause of action.
Each jurisdiction may have its own local rules governing injunctive relief; however, after filing suit in the appropriate county, your lawyer will next approach the court ex parte, meaning without the defendant present, to seek a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).
What Is a Temporary Restraining Order?
A TRO is an order entered by the court to protect your interest from further immediate harm, and it sets the matter for a Temporary Injunction (TI) hearing. Pursuant to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 680, no TRO will be granted without notice unless “it clearly appears from specific facts shown by affidavit or by the verified complaint that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the applicant before notice can be served and a hearing had thereon.” Additionally, in seeking a TRO, it must be demonstrated that:
- The Plaintiff is entitled to the relief requested;
- The Plaintiff is likely to win the suit;
- The harm the Plaintiff is complaining of is imminent;
- If the harm alleged occurs, the Plaintiff would be irreparably injured; and,
- The Plaintiff has no other remedy available.
If, after considering these factors, the court agrees with the Plaintiff’s petition, it will grant the TRO.
What is the Difference Between a TRO and a Temporary Injunction?
A TRO is issued by a court on an emergency basis to prevent further harm and to preserve the status quo, but only for a limited time – usually up to 14 days. During this time, the court will hold a Temporary Injunction hearing to determine whether a TI should be issued. A Temporary Injunction is a longer-term solution and, if granted, restrains the defendant’s behavior for the duration of the litigation.
What Is the Difference Between a Temporary Injunction and a Permanent Injunction?
A permanent injunction, as the name implies, orders a party to do something (or not do something) permanently, and is usually only entered at the end of a lawsuit when a court has heard all the evidence and legal arguments (either through motions or at a trial). The permanent injunction may simply make the terms of a temporary injunction permanent, but it can also contain other provisions, and can even be awarded when no temporary injunction was requested or issued. A permanent injunction is generally an option for the court any time money damages alone will not do justice for the winning party in a lawsuit.
Preparing for a Temporary Injunction Hearing
While the process for obtaining injunctive relief is straightforward, the facts and law underpinning the specific claims for relief can be complex. As such, the most important part in obtaining injunctive relief is preparing for the hearing.
The TI hearing happens within a few days of filing the original petition. Within that short time frame, you and your attorney must prepare yourself and each relevant witness to testify. You must also gather relevant documents and information which, in most cases, will involve expedited discovery.
Expedited discovery is a process that allows the plaintiff to “discover” (or gather and exchange) evidence from the other side in a compressed time frame. Expedited discovery must be requested through a motion filed with the court.
Your attorney will evaluate exactly what testimony and documents are necessary for the TI hearing itself—as opposed to the case as a whole. While the issues relevant to the TI hearing and the entire dispute may overlap, narrowly tailoring the discovery request to evidence that will demonstrate the irreparable harm the actions of the plaintiff may cause will increase the likelihood that a motion for expedited discovery is granted.
Experienced Civil Litigation Attorneys for Injunctive Relief
Sophisticated business litigators will often advise their clients to request a temporary injunction to speed up the resolution of a business dispute. That's because a judge, in weighing your request for a temporary injunction, can assess the validity and strengths of your case and may find you have a probable right to recovery. As a result, proceedings on a request for a temporary injunction often resemble a "mini-trial" at which the court hears from witnesses, reviews documentary evidence, and considers legal arguments.
The "mini-trial" isn't as thorough as the full-blown trial you might have after months of discovery and legal motions, but it does give the court a handle on the facts and the applicable laws. The court's decision on whether or not to issue a temporary injunction typically signals whether the court thinks you are likely win your case down the road, which in turn often helps to push the parties to a prompt settlement.
Because the TI hearing can have the effect of putting an end to the case, it is important to have a firm understanding of the facts, process, and the law underpinning your case. Given the strict legal requirements, it is never advisable to seek injunctive relief pro se, or without the representation of an attorney. An experienced civil litigation attorney can help protect you and your interests during this process.
At Hendershot Cowart P.C., our experienced civil litigators have counseled clients through every phase of injunctive relief during a business crisis. We've helped clients deal with breach of contract cases, non-compete violations, patent or licensing agreement infringement, business disputes, and more.