permanent injunction

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A permanent injunction is a court order requiring a person to do or cease doing a specific action that is issued as a final judgment in a case. A court will issue a permanent injunction only where money damages will not suffice. Failure to comply with an injunction may result in being held in contempt of court, which in turn may result in either criminal or civil liability.

There is a balancing test that courts typically employ in determining whether to issue an injunction. The Supreme Court in Weinberger v. Romero-Barcelo laid out a four-step test that a plaintiff must pass to obtain a permanent injunction: (1) that the plaintiff has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law, such as monetary damages, are inadequate to compensate for the injury; (3) that the remedy in equity is warranted upon consideration of the balance of hardships between the plaintiff and defendant; and (4) that the permanent injunction being sought would not hurt public interest. In eBay, Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC, the Supreme Court further clarified that the decision to grant or deny permanent injunctive relief is an act of equitable discretion by a U.S. district court, reviewable on appeal for abuse of discretion.

In balancing the damages to the plaintiff and the defendant and the public interest, the courts balance the relative harm and benefit to both the defendant and the plaintiff if the injunction is granted. A leading decision, Boomer v. Atlantic Cement Co., ruled against a permanent injunction against the cement company in a nuisance claim by the homeowners in the neighborhood. In reaching the decision, the court factored in the factory’s apparent inability to develop improved abatement methods, and the defendant’s 45-million-dollar capital. investment in the factory, both of which are factors by which the defendant would be hurt significantly hurt by the injunction. See 26 N.Y.2d 219 (2nd Cir., 1970).

Also, in some jurisdictions, courts take into consideration good faith of the parties. If it seems that the defendant is acting in good faith, by doing all that it can to abate the nuisance, the court may reflect those efforts in the terms of its order. In contrast, if the court believes the defendant is acting in bad faith, the court will show little sympathy and rule in favor of permanent injunction. See, e.g., Penland v. Redwood Sanitary Sewer Serv. Dist., 965 P.2d 433, 440 (Or. Ct. App.1998); Holubec v. Brandenburger, 58 S.W.3d 201, 213-14 (Tex. App. 2001), rev'd on other grounds, 111 S.W.3d 32 (Tex. 2003).

[Last updated in December of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]