Perhaps the most commonly known forms of equitable relief are temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions. Both are designed to preserve the status quo pending the merits of a case. In Missouri, and most other jurisdictions, the primary purpose of a temporary restraining order is to preserve the status quo. Walker v. Hanke, 992 S.W.2d 925, 933 (Mo. Ct. App 1999). A party seeking a temporary restraining order should provide evidence on the following factors to be considered by a Court: (1) threat of irreparable harm, (2) the balance between the harm and the injury that granting the injunction will inflict on any of the other parties, (3) the probability that the movant will succeed on the merits, and (4) the impact on the public interest. State ex rel. Director of Revenue v. Gabbert, 925 S.W. 2d 838, 839 (Mo. 1996). Because it is a factors analysis, no single factor is conclusive. To give an example of a temporary restraining order in effect, consider a contractual non-compete scenario. If an employer files suit against an ex-employee for breach of a non-compete agreement or other restrictive covenant, the employer may move for a temporary restraining order to halt any conduct by the ex-employee which violates the agreement while the merits of the case are being litigated.
In Missouri, a restraining order can be granted with or without notice, but notice is almost always preferred unless providing it would defeat the purposes of the request. Restraining orders can usually only last for fourteen (14) days if it is issued with notice to the other party; this duration is shortened to ten (10) days if the other party did not have notice. Another temporary restraining order can be requested at the end of the pertinent time period, but this can only be done for so long. Instead, it is more legally appropriate to convert the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction, which lasts during the pendency of the underlying case. The factors to be considered on a preliminary injunction are the same as with a temporary restraining order, except that a stronger showing is typically required and an evidentiary hearing will need to be conducted. Trial courts have broad discretion for preliminary injunctive relief. White v. Boyne, 30 S.W.2d 791 (Mo. Ct. App. 1930).
Backtracking a bit, a key element when moving for a temporary restraining order is the showing of possible/probable irreparable harm. This usually means the inadequacy of money damages as a remedy. For example, in a breach of contract or breach of trust suit, the party requesting the equitable relief needs to demonstrate why a monetary judgment is not an adequate substitute for the Court’s equitable orders commanding the other party to do something or refrain from doing something.
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