Dowdy v. Dowdy, — So.3d —-, 2016 WL 56785 (Fla. 2d DCA January 06, 2016)

In trust litigation one of the first moves you’ll often see is some kind of “emergency” motion asking the judge to freeze the trust’s assets and/or in some way remove the trustee.

What this kind of motion is of course asking for (whether explicitly stated or not) is a temporary injunction. When I point this out I’m often met with blank stares (and not just from the lawyers). Which is why it’s useful to have a few appellate decisions handy stating the obvious: trust litigation is not the twilight zone, when it comes to temporary injunctions, the same rules apply. See here, here. And is that what the court decided in this case? YES!

In order to obtain a temporary injunction, the moving party must make four showings. Atomic Tattoos, LLC v. Morgan, 45 So.3d 63, 64–65 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010). The movant must demonstrate that he will suffer irreparable harm without an injunction, that he has no adequate remedy at law, that he enjoys a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, and that an injunction would be in furtherance of the public interest. Id. When granting an injunction, the court must make factual findings to support each element. Liberty Fin. Mortg. Corp. v. Clampitt, 667 So.2d 880, 881 (Fla. 2d DCA 1996) (citing City of Jacksonville v. Naegele Outdoor Advert. Co., 634 So.2d 750, 753–54 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994) (“If it is to be subject to meaningful review, an order granting a temporary injunction must contain more than conclusory legal aphorisms…. Facts must be found.”), approved, 659 So.2d 1046 (Fla.1995)); see also Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.610(c) (mandating that every injunction shall specify the reasons for entry).

Here, the circuit court’s order contained no factual findings or legal analysis, and it is vulnerable to reversal for that reason alone.

What’s important about decisions like this one is that they’ll hopefully put the brakes on the almost haphazard manner temporary injunctions are often doled out in trust cases. Dispensing with the need for an order containing detailed findings of fact based on evidence (and not just argument of counsel) may be expedient for the judge, but it actually makes litigating the merits of these cases a whole lot harder and more expensive for everyone else.