by Andrew J. Petersen
The irreparable injury rule is based on a body of cases where courts have denied injunctive relief when the complainant has an adequate legal remedy, i.e., monetary damages. In 1990, Douglas Laycock wrote a law review article entitled The Death of the Irreparable Injury Rule, 103 Harv. L. Rev. 687 (1990). A year later, his research became a book, and he argues against use of the rule, quite convincingly. Professor Laycock concludes that the irreparable injury rule is misleading rhetoric because of the numerous cases where the meaning of “adequate” or “irreparable” is result oriented. The rule fosters inconsistency and an outdated hierarchy of remedies: “When a judge believes that the irreparable injury rule requires a wrong result, he may do what he thinks is right whether or not he can explain it.” The rule is not a significant barrier to equitable relief because the legal remedy is almost never adequate. Professor Laycock concludes that often damages are not adequate unless the law wants them to be.
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