How to File a Preliminary Injunction

February 23, 2023

[Cut down on time drafting motions and download Bloomberg Law’s preliminary injunction sample form that can be easily adapted to an individual case.]

Granted before or during a trial, preliminary injunctions are issued to maintain the status quo between parties before final judgment.

This article outlines preliminary injunctions, explains the hearing process, and provides a downloadable sample motion.

What is a preliminary injunction?

A preliminary injunction is temporary relief that preserves the status quo until the courts decide on the merits of the case. The relief sought often involves asking a court to prevent an opposing party from taking specific action or continuing a current course of action.

Preliminary injunctions can be issued in any situation where the moving party will be irreparably harmed if the status quo is not preserved during the case. When preliminary injunctions are issued, the nonmoving party must be notified and given a chance to respond.

Constitutional, intellectual property, and family law cases typically involve preliminary injunctions. Often, parties who seek a preliminary injunction want to make it permanent upon the case’s conclusion.

What are the elements of a preliminary injunction?

Courts apply the same elements and legal standard for preliminary injunctions and temporary restraining orders. A party seeking an injunction must show:

Substantial likelihood of success on the merits

Parties seeking the injunction need to show that they are likely to win their case. For example, the complaint must adequately state a legal claim against the defendant, and the proof offered in support of the preliminary injunction motion must demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct entitles the plaintiff to relief under each legal theory alleged.

Irreparable harm

Although there are exceptions, typically irreparable harm consists of an injury that cannot be remedied by money damages or an eventual judgment on the merits. Courts have held, for example, that constitutional violations and loss of business reputation or goodwill may meet this standard. If the cause of action is an action at law – i.e., an action that primarily seeks damages – a motion for a preliminary injunction may be subject to attack.

Balancing the equities

Courts considering this factor compare the harm that will befall the plaintiff if the injunction fails to issue against the harm that will result to defendants from being enjoined. Courts generally hold that defendants do not suffer harm from being forced to stop engaging in illegal conduct.

Public interest

Courts often look to the public interest underlying the law giving rise to the legal claims at issue in the case to determine whether an injunction would be in keeping with the public interest. For example, they have held that injunctions protecting the rights of copyright owners are in the public interest, as is preventing the suppression of free speech.

The relative weight of each factor is balanced by the court in exercising its discretion, with the plaintiff’s likelihood of success on the merits being one of the most important factors. The proof required to obtain the preliminary injunction is substantially more than what is required to survive a summary judgment motion.

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What happens at a preliminary injunction hearing?

After a motion for a preliminary injunction has been filed, the court will often hold a hearing to determine whether to issue it. The preliminary injunction hearing can serve as a “mini-trial” on the merits of the plaintiff’s case, albeit on an expedited basis with limited evidence.

The hearing is considerably less formal than a final trial on the merits, and the court is entitled to rely on otherwise inadmissible evidence, including hearsay. FRCP 65(a)(2) states that admissible evidence provided during the preliminary injunction hearing becomes part of the trial record and does not have to be repeated at trial. Finally, FRCP 65(a)(2) also provides that the court may advance the trial on the merits and consolidate it with the preliminary injunction hearing.

It’s important to make sure that a movant has the evidence it needs to establish its likelihood of success on the merits as quickly as possible. Typically, courts do not allow discovery in advance of the FRCP 26(f) conference. In certain cases, however, they have allowed expedited discovery due to the expedited nature of injunctive proceedings.

Can you appeal a preliminary injunction?

The decision to grant or deny a preliminary injunction is appealable, with the reviewing court generally examining the trial judge’s decision under a deferential “abuse of discretion” standard.

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Sample motion for preliminary injunction

This form is intended to serve as a general template that must be adapted to a particular matter. It is not tailored to address specific facts or comply with the requirements of the applicable local rules or practice.

[Download this sample motion as a PDF and adapt as needed.]


JOHN PLAINTIFF, et al., Plaintiffs, vs.

DEFENDANT COMPANY INC., et al., Defendants.

Case No.


     Plaintiffs hereby move pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 for a preliminary injunction prohibiting Defendants from engaging in [insert conduct] until this Court has an opportunity to issue a final judgment on the merits.

Plaintiffs make this motion for a preliminary injunction on the grounds that (1) Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of succeeding on the merits of their claim that Defendant has [describe unlawful conduct]; (2) Plaintiffs are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of the relief requested; (3) the harm Plaintiffs are likely to suffer if the preliminary injunction is denied outweighs the harm that Defendants are likely to suffer as a result of the preliminary injunction; and (4) the public interest favors issuing the preliminary injunction.


[Insert a high-level description of defendants’ conduct and why a preliminary injunction is necessary to prevent plaintiffs from suffering irreparable harm.]


[Insert a discussion of facts that sets out, in a narrative fashion, everything plaintiffs will rely on in their arguments below. For each fact, make sure to cite the relevant affidavit/declaration paragraph or exhibit to support it.]


[Insert paragraphs setting forth circuit or state court precedent governing the standards for issuing preliminary injunctions. See Point of Law.]


I. The Plaintiffs Have Made the Required Showing for a Preliminary Injunction

A. Plaintiffs Have Demonstrated a Likelihood of Success on the Merits

[Insert arguments demonstrating why plaintiffs are likely to establish each defendant’s liability for each claim.]

B. Plaintiffs Are Likely to Suffer Irreparable Harm in the Absence of Preliminary Relief

[Insert arguments demonstrating the harm that defendants will cause in the absence of a preliminary injunction.]

C. The Balance of Equities Favors the Plaintiffs

[Insert arguments to demonstrate that the preliminary injunction will cause less harm to defendants than plaintiffs will suffer if the preliminary injunction does not issue.]

D. The Issuance of a Preliminary Injunction is in the Public Interest

[Insert arguments demonstrating why a preliminary injunction would be consonant with the public interest.]

II. The Bond Amount Is Reasonable

[Insert arguments explaining how the amount of security proposed is sufficient to compensate defendants if they are wrongfully enjoined.]

III. Plaintiffs Should Be Provided with an Opportunity to Conduct Expedited Discovery

[If necessary, insert argument demonstrating why additional discovery is needed prior to the preliminary injunction hearing.]


     For the foregoing reasons, this Court should grant the injunctive relief Plaintiffs request, approve security in the amount of [AMOUNT], provide Plaintiffs with an opportunity to conduct expedited discovery, and order such further relief as this Court deems appropriate.

Dated: [DATE]

Respectfully submitted, _______________________________
[NAME(S), Bar No. (if applicable)]
Attorneys for Plaintiffs [NAMES]


I HEREBY CERTIFY that on [DATE], a true and correct copy of the foregoing has been served on [PARTIES] via [METHOD].


Attorney for Plaintiffs [NAMES]