Injunctive relief is a type of legal remedy that can be sought in a civil suit. Injunctive relief is an alternative to monetary damages. It can be awarded to a plaintiff in addition to, or instead of, monetary damages.
Injunctive relief refers to an order by the court that the defendant cease a specific behavior. The plaintiff who sues for injunctive relief will request the specific behavior in question be stopped. The court will evaluate the plaintiff's request, and the reasons behind it, and issue an injunction if the plaintiff has a sound legal right to make the defendant stop.
Injunctive relief, or an injunction, is an appropriate remedy if the plaintiff is being harmed by the defendant's actions in a way that money cannot fully compensate for. For example, if a plaintiff owns a rare and valuable painting that the defendant is about to destroy, the plaintiff may seek an injunction and request the court bar the defendant from destroying the painting. Since monetary damages for the replacement value of the painting would not be sufficient to compensate the plaintiff fully for his damages, the judge may order an injunction.
Injunctions have been sought in order to protect trade secrets. Injunctions have also been requested to protect a person's reputation. Injunctions are the appropriate remedy in any situation where, if the defendant is not ordered to cease doing an action, the plaintiff will not be able to be compensated.
In certain contexts, injunctions are known by other names. For example, an injunction prohibiting the press to release a particular story or piece of information may be called a "gag order." An injunction can also be referred to as a temporary restraining order.
Injunctions can be temporary or permanent. A temporary injunction can be granted pending the outcome of a full trial if the plaintiff can demonstrate that the injunction must be granted immediately to prevent irreversible harm. The plaintiff must show a legal right to make the defendant cease the unwanted behavior.
A permanent injunction forever bars the defendant from doing the specific action in question. Permanent injunctions are granted only in situations where the plaintiff has a clear legal right to stop the behavior. The plaintiff's right to the injunction must be weighed against the defendant's right to liberty and freedom of action. Such injunctions are relatively rare.
An injunction is considered an equitable remedy. A party who violates an injunction may be subject to sanctions including monetary fines. In certain situations, a defendant who violates an injunction may also be held in contempt of court for disobeying a legal order; this could then invoke criminal penalties.