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Elements in a Contract - XXVI - Injunctions

Updated on July 21, 2017

The second type of equitable remedy that the courts will award is an injunction and it is basically an order to stop a person or a company from doing something. While the earlier remedy of specify performance compels a party to act, injunctions do the exact opposite.

Let’s say for example that Jack and Jill are neighbors. Jack happens to be a bit of a handyman and his favorite hobby or pastime is to make improvements to his house. So, whenever he has a day off, especially Sundays, he drills holes in his walls. The sound drives Jill, his next-door neighbor, who works six days a week at the local hospital, insane. Unable to tolerate the noise any longer, she approaches the court for an order to stop Jack from drilling holes in his walls on Sundays. Such an order is called an injunction.

Likewise let’s say that Lakeside Mining Corporation has acquired a certain property and based on geological studies the property it has acquired is rich in minerals. Lakeside then makes it public that it intends to mine in the area and kicks off its mining operation by bringing in heavy machinery and the other equipment needed to facilitate the mining process.

The ensuing ruckus, caused by the trucks and the other heavy machinery, and the pollution that results from large tires and steel tracks churning up clouds of dust, causes a great deal of discomfort to the other residents in the area and the angry residents form a group and approach the court for an order to stop the mining prior to Lakeside Mining Corporation starting any work. Like in the earlier example the order that the residents would seek is an injunction.

Therefore, there are two types of injunctions: -

i) Mandatory injunction: - normally taken out once work has commenced or started like in the example of Jack and Jill given above and

ii) Prohibitory injunctions: - Normally taken out before the act has been started as in the example of Lakeside Mining Corporation.

In Lumley v Wagner (1852) the plaintiff had obtained the services of an opera singer who he had employed to sing at his theater. The employment contract stipulated that the singer, while she is employed by the plaintiff, could not perform at another theater. Subsequently, the owner of another theater approached the singer and offered her more money to sing in his theater. The defendant (singer) agreed and the plaintiff sought an injunction against the defendant to stop her from moving until such time as she had completed her contract. The court granted the plaintiff an injunction.

In Warner Bros v Nelson (1937) the defendant was employed by the plaintiff and as part of her contract she was not allowed to act for another company or take up employment with another company for 2 years. The defendant tried to take up employment with another company during the 2 year period and the plaintiffs successfully obtained an injunction against the defendant that prohibited her from doing so.

In Page One Records v Britton (1968) however, a pop group, the Troggs, had a five-year contract with their manager. There was a misunderstanding and the group wanted to replace him. The manager sought an injunction against the Troggs to stop them from doing so. The courts refused to grant an injunction on the grounds that it would compel the pop group to continue to employ their manager even when it had become clear that they no longer wished or desired to do so.

Because an injunction is an equitable remedy it is normally at the discretion of the courts - as per the maxim “equity varies with the length of the Lord Chancellor’s foot”. In Wrotham Park Estate Co Ltd v Parkside Homes Ltd (1974) the defendant built houses on his land in breach of a restrictive covenant (an agreement that requires the buyer to abstain from doing something). One of his neighbors sought to obtain an injunction to have the houses demolished but the courts refused because houses were scare and to allow the order would be a needless waste of resources.

In Warren v Mendy (1989) a boxer had an exclusive contract with his manager but during the term of the contract the boxer lost confidence in his manager and sought advice elsewhere. His manager sought an order (injunction) to stop the boxer from obtaining advice elsewhere and the court refused.

© 2017 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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