Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Eastside Vend Distributors, Inc. v. The Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc. (Ct. of Appeals)

Filed December 19, 2006--Opinion by Judge Dale R. Cathell.

Preliminary injunctions are designed as a preventative and protective remedy for actions which may occur in the future. The purpose of interlocutory injunctions is to maintain the status quo between parties engaged in litigation pending the resolution of such litigation. If the granting of a preliminary injunction would fail to prevent a future act or maintain the status quo between the parties, then it should not be granted.

If the granting of an interlocutory injunction satisfies the above criteria, then the court will examine four factors: (1) the likelihood that the plaintiff will succeed on the merits, (2) the balance of convenience, (3) whether the plaintiff will suffer irreparable injury unless the injunction is granted, and (4) the public interest. See Department of Transportation v. Armacost, 299 Md. 392, 404-05, 474 A.2d 191, 197 (1984). The party seeking the injunction has the burden of proving the facts necessary to support each factor and must prove all four factors in order to receive preliminary relief. Should the plaintiff fail to prove even one of the factors, an interlocutory injunction will not be granted.

Furthermore, as a precursor to analyzing the four factors, courts must balance the likelihood of irreparable harm to the plaintiff against the likelihood of irreparable harm to the defendant. Blackwelder Furniture Co. v. Seilig Manufacturing Co., 550 F.2d 189, 195 (4th Cir. 1977); Lerner v. Lerner, 306 Md. 771, 783-84, 511 A.2d 501, 507 (1986). If this "balance of hardships" weighs in favor of the plaintiff, then the likelihood of success on the merits factor is replaced with a more lenient standard: whether "the plaintiff has raised questions going to the merits so serious, substantial, difficult and doubtful, as to make them fair ground for litigation." Blackwelder, 550 F.2d at 195 (citations omitted) (quotations omitted).

The plaintiff entered into an agreement with the defendant , effective, March 21, 2004 – prior to filing the complaint and initiating the pending controversy. Therefore, the 2004 agreement was freely negotiated before the complaint was filed, at which time the status of the parties was peaceable and non-contested. It is uncontroverted that the 2004 agreement would terminate by its own freely negotiated terms on December 25, 2004. That date that was before the date the lawsuit was filed. The termination had also been established prior to the date that the plaintiff alleged the defendant had committed the illegal actions that gave rise to the case.

Under these circumstances, the plaintiff failed to establish its entitlement to a preliminary injunction.

The full opinion is available in WPD or PDF.

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