Difference Between Injunction and Stay Order

Injunction vs Stay Order

Identifying the difference between the two terms injunction and stay order is not complex, when you understand the meaning of each term clearly. Those of us in the legal field are well acquainted with the terms Injunction and Stay Order. On the other hand, some of us may have heard the term Injunction but not Stay Order. However, before distinguishing the terms we must first understand their meanings. It is only then that the difference between them becomes apparent.

What is an Injunction?

An Injunction is defined in law as a court order or writ that requires a person to perform or to refrain from performing a particular act. It is an equitable remedy granted by court compelling the performance or non-performance of some act. This remedy is granted at the discretion of the court. Thus, it will vary from case to case. An Injunction is typically requested or prayed for by the party filing action, also known as the plaintiff. In granting an Injunction, the court will examine the facts of the case to determine if the plaintiff’s rights are being violated and if there is an irreparable injury. This means that the extent of the injury is such that even the remedy of damages is not sufficient to repair the injury. Courts will also grant Injunctions to either ensure justice or prevent injustice. Keep in mind that an Injunction is not a remedy that is granted liberally by the court.

Injunctions are classified into several categories. These include Preliminary Injunctions, Preventive Injunctions, Mandatory Injunctions, or Permanent Injunctions. Preliminary Injunctions are granted as a form of temporary relief in order to maintain or preserve the existing condition of something. Preventive Injunctions order people to refrain from doing some negative act that would adversely affect the rights of the plaintiff. Mandatory Injunctions require the compulsory performance of some particular act, also called specific performance. Example of a Mandatory Injunction is a court order to remove buildings or structures wrongfully erected upon someone else’s land. Permanent Injunctions are granted at the end of a hearing and constitute a form of final relief. General examples of Injunctions include orders to prevent nuisance, pollution of water supplies, cutting trees, damage or destruction to property or personal injury, orders requiring the return of property or removal of blocks from access ways and others. Failure to comply with an Injunction results in a charge of contempt of court.

Difference Between Injunction and Stay Order

Ordering to remove an unauthorized structure is an injunction

What is a Stay Order?

A Stay Order also represents a court-issued order. However, its purpose is different from that of an Injunction. It is defined as a court order halting or suspending a judicial proceeding either fully or temporarily. Some jurisdictions simply refer to it as a ‘Stay.’ Such orders are issued in order to suspend or stop a legal action until a certain condition is fulfilled or a particular event occurs. The court can lift the suspension later on and re-commence the legal proceeding. Stay Orders differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In general, however, there are two types of Stay Orders: a Stay of Execution and a Stay of Proceedings.

A Stay of Execution is a Stay Order issued by court suspending or delaying the enforcement of a judgement against a person. Thus, for example, when the court awards damages to a plaintiff, the plaintiff is unable to collect the awarded sum from the defendant due to the Stay Order. This type of Stay Order can also refer to a postponement or halt in the enforcement of a death penalty sentence.

A Stay of Proceedings, on the other hand, refers to the suspension of a legal trial or a particular proceeding within a legal action. Such Stay Orders are issued to suspend the process of a case until a party to the case fulfills certain conditions or complies with a court order. For example, where a party is under obligation to deposit a certain sum with the court before the commencement of a legal action, then the court will issue a Stay Order until the party pays the sum. Further, if the plaintiff has filed actions in two different courts against the defendant, such as a district court and criminal court, then one of the courts will issue a Stay Order suspending the action before it until the case in the other court is concluded.

 Injunction vs Stay Order

Stay Order halts or suspends a judicial proceeding either fully or temporarily

What is the difference between Injunction and Stay Order?

It is evident then that an Injunction and a Stay Order represent two entirely different legal terms. Although both constitute orders issued by court, they differ in their purpose.

• An Injunction is a court order or writ prohibiting or requiring the performance of some particular act by a party.

• An Injunction is typically requested by the plaintiff and represents an equitable remedy in law.

• Injunctions are granted at the discretion of the court and only in instances where one party’s actions will cause irreparable injury to the plaintiff.

• There are different types of Injunctions including Preliminary, Preventive, Mandatory, or Permanent Injunctions.

• In contrast, a Stay Order constitutes an order issued by court suspending, postponing or halting a judicial proceeding either fully or temporarily.

• Although Stay Orders may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, essentially there are two main types of Stay Orders: Stay of Execution and Stay of Proceedings.

• A Stay of Execution refers to the suspension or delay in the enforcement of a particular court judgement, such as a death penalty or paying damages to a plaintiff. Likewise, a Stay of Proceedings refers to the suspension or postponement of a legal proceeding or a particular process within a legal action.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Rundown Shack via Wikicommons (Public Domain)
  2. The Utah Supreme Court’s chamber by Mangoman88 (CC BY-SA 3.0)