Monday, September 10, 2007

injunction - dissipation of assets

Ambrogi v. Reber - Superior Court - September 7, 2007

It was appropriate for the trial court to grant an injunction preventing defendants from dissipating their assets during the pendency of a lawsuit. The court ordered defendants to place the net proceeds of the sale of considerable real property in a supervised escrow account. There was a demonstrated need to prevent defendants from liquidating their assets and making themselves judgment proof.

The opinion contains a good review of that factors that are required to get a preliminary injunction.
- prevent immediate and irreparable harm
- greater injury from on-grant that grant
- maintenance of status quo
- the alleged wrong is manifest and the injunction of reasonably suited to abate it.
The movant doesn't have to show that he will prevail, only that there are substantial legal questions that the court has to resolve. On appeal, the court determines if the trial court had reasonable grounds for its order and will reverse only where no grounds for it exist or that the rule of law relied on was palpably erroneous or misapplied.

In this wrongful death action, defendants sold almost 40% of their real estate in less than 2 years from the date of a fatal fire at issue in the case. The trial court was troubled by the number of post-fire sales, the high value of the properties sold after the fire ($3 million), defendants' failure to purchase new real property with the proceeds, defendants' failure to disclose ownership of other properties, and very high potential damages.

The trial court simply directed that defendants must preserve their assets at a level reasonably calculated to satisfy a judgment that could be entered. Its order allowed defendants to petition for a change and release of funds to conduct their business.