An injunction is a court order which prohibits a person from taking a particular action (prohibitory injunctions) or requires them to undertake a particular action (mandatory injunctions).
An injunction can be either final or interim.
An interim injunction is a provisional measure which is taken at an early stage in proceedings, by either a defendant or claimant, before trial, and before any final decision on the merits of either side’s case. It enables the applicant to protect and preserve their rights until the court can finally resolve the dispute.
A final injunction continues after the end of proceedings and is granted to last continuously or until a specified date after which protection is no longer required.
When is an injunction suitable?
Injunctions can be used in an array of circumstances and are not confined to one particular area of law.
An example could involve an application to enforce a restrictive covenant in a contract (eg where it is believed that an ex-employee has illegitimately taken confidential information and is misusing this to benefit a competitor, or is seeking to solicit business contacts away when he or she has undertaken not to do so for a reasonable period of time).
Interim injunctions may also be used to prevent infringements of rights before the infringement occurs, but where there is evidence to support a belief of the intention to infringe. This prevents commercial harm before it occurs.
Depending on the severity of the infringement and the urgency of its consequences, an interim injunction can be obtained without giving notice of the application to your opponent. This procedure can also be used where the act of giving notice may itself harm your position by allowing time for your opponent to complete its infringing actions, disperse assets to which you believe you are entitled or destroy evidence of what it has been doing.
In addition to protecting and preserving your rights, a well judged threat of an injunction can also place pressure on your opponent, forcing them to concede ground, negotiate undertakings and sometimes settle the entire dispute without the need for protracted litigation.
Injunctions can provide a cure to the direst of situations. However, there is a need to consider your opponent’s rights, including the need to give a cross undertaking in damages to the court. This is a promise to recompense in damages anyone adversely affected by the injunction in the event that it is overturned at a later date.
We have recently acted in a matter where a landlord unlawfully threatened to re-enter premises and gain possession contrary to a lease. Our client was concerned about the detrimental and devastating effect this would have on its business. We obtained an injunction in the High Court restraining the landlord, which preserved our client’s business and ultimately resulted in success at trial.
A later application in the same case resulted in a freezing injunction preventing the landlord from dispersing funds which were needed to settle an order for costs payable to our client; a right to recover those costs having been obtained at trial.
Other examples recently include;
- an injunction protecting a Housing Association’s employees from unlawful harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997
- acting for a shareholder, and prevented the unlawful transfer of a client’s shares at an under-value without consent
- several matters protecting against clients’ ex-employees’ use of confidential information, and acting to defend threatened injunctions in similar circumstances.