Part 2: Rights, Harms and Remedies

In its ruling on HRS’s appeal, the Third District Appellate Court first established that their standard of review was whether or not the circuit had abused its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction. As long as aprima facie case for a preliminary injunction had been properly laid out by the moving party, then the circuit court was within its discretion to grant the injunction.

Both sides conceded that ORT had made a contract with Agri-Sources for the acquisition of the 8-acre parcel, so the Court quickly concluded that there was an ascertainable right.

The second factor was whether or not ORT would suffer an irreparable harm absent the injunction. ORT’s argument to the circuit court had been that the particular parcel of land being fought over was essential to the continued sustainability of its business, because its proximity to both the Mississippi River and a railroad spur. Simultaneously, the court also discussed the third element, that there was no adequate remedy at law.

HRS argued that while the parcel of land was well-suited to be used by ORT’s fertilizer business, an award of money damages, should ORT prevail in its claims, would be adequate in this case to compensate ORT for any damages they might have occurred.

The Appellate court quickly swept aside those arguments. First, it noted, this was an action involving a piece of real property, and money damages, a legal remedy, are not adequate in those cases. Because each piece of real property is unique and distinct from all others, simply giving an owner money damages instead of the property itself is not an adequate remedy. A contract for a piece of real property is not a contract for land, it is a contract for a very specific piece of land and, as a result, there is no way to substitute for the uniqueness of that particular parcel.

HRS also challenged the assertion that ORT would be irreparably harmed if the preliminary injunction were not granted. This argument was substantially stronger than its challenge to the adequacy of the remedy at law, as it would turn on the facts presented by ORT, rather than well-established precedent, but the court once again rejected HRS’s main contentions. In moving for the preliminary injunction, ORT had shown that without the parcel of land, it would likely lose most of their business and, in fact, the process of litigation had already scared off one of its business partners, bringing before the court the cancelled contract that had represented over 10% of its business. The court also recognized that even if money damages were later given to ORT after the fact, it would not be able to repair the damage to ORT’s good will among the community nor its competitive position in the fertilizer market. As a result, the Appellate Court ruled that both the second and third elements for the issuing of a preliminary injunction had been met. The last issue - likelihood of success on the merits – will be considered in the next part.

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