Nonmonetary Remedies - Injunctions
The most important nonmonetary civil remedy is the injunction. In certain situations, the court has the right to order that a person be prevented from or, more rarely, required to do something. This order is called an injunction. To obtain a temporary injunction, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s actions would cause irreparable harm and that the plaintiff has a substantial chance of prevailing in a trial. The key issue in an injunction is convincing the court that the harm cannot be cured by just paying the plaintiff money later. In a medical context, a surgeon might try to get an injunction to prevent a hospital from a summary termination of his or her medical staff privileges. The surgeon’s argument would be that his or her career and reputation would be permanently damaged and that his or her patients would be put at risk. The judge might grant such an injunction unless the hospital could show that the risk to patients was greater if the surgeon were allowed to continue to practice while the hospital conducted hearings on the termination of privileges.
When a temporary injunction is granted, the plaintiff must post a bond that is sufficient to compensate the defendant if the plaintiff does not prevail in the case. If the plaintiff does prevail, the bond is refunded, and the court may enter a permanent injunction to prevent the complained-of conduct. If the defendant prevails, the bond will be used to pay any damages that the defendant can prove were caused by the injunction. Since an injunction is a court order, violating an injunction is contempt of court and may be punished by a fine or imprisonment.
Injunctions are often requested in cases such as medical staff disputes, withdrawal of life support cases, and cases involving the treatment of children. In these cases, the complaining party attempts to convince the court that since human lives are at stake, the court must step in. In some cases, courts have tried to order pregnant women not to have abortions, or to submit to certain types of medical care ordered by their physicians. These are controversial actions and will be discussed in greater detail in subsequent sections. In some cases these are resolved by injunctions, but in most cases they require the appointment of a guardian who will determine what is in the best interest of the patient.
The courts are generally unwilling to use injunctions to enforce personal service contracts, such as research contracts or employment contracts. As an example, assume that you sign a contract to perform a study for the Dreck drug company but never complete the study. Dreck is furious and sues to force you to complete the study. You offer to return the money you have been paid, but Dreck refuses, claiming that you must complete the study so approval of its drug will not be delayed. Since you have a detailed agreement as to how the study is to be conducted, why shouldn’t the court force you to comply with the agreement?
The problem with ordering the performance of a personal services contract is that courts want to make rulings that end disputes. If the court orders you to complete the study, it will be faced with determining whether you are working fast enough, if your work is of acceptable quality, and other issues as to the performance of the contract. The court’s ruling would only create new disputes. This pragmatism, combined with a reluctance to interfere in individual behavior, results in the policy of refusing to enforce personal services contracts. The court may award the plaintiff (Dreck) monetary damages for any extra costs entailed in having someone else complete the study.
An increasingly common problem is the reverse of this situation: the medical care practitioner has signed a contract that has a noncompete agreement. This might say that the signer agrees not to work for competing managed care plan for a year, or that the practitioner will not practice within three miles of the previous employer for two years. If the practitioner violates the terms of these contracts, the courts are often willing to grant an injunction to force the practitioner to quit the noncomplying job. Unlike an order to do a job, which can require ongoing supervision, an order to not do a job is simple to enforce.