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How to Obtain Injunctive Relief to Freeze Assets in Federal Court

When suing over issues of personal property, such as golds coins, the plaintiff might want to ensure that the gold coins are not dissipated prior to the outcome of the case.  A Federal court will issue temporary injunctive relief to freeze assets upon a proper showing of entitlement.  A 2016 order from the Southern District of Florida reinforces the importance of properly pleading one’s case in Federal court.

In Piccolo v. Piccolo, (S.D. Fla. August 11, 2016), the plaintiff filed a tort case over hundreds of gold coins and cash.  The complaint sought only money damates.  Then Plaintiff filed a motion to force the Defendant to disclose the location of the gold and cash, as well as to compel the items to be stored in a “secure location,”  essentially seeking injunctive relief to freeze the assets at issue in the federal lawsuit.

The complaint itself did not contain a request for equitable relief.  Injunctions, or requests to freeze assets, are equitable relief.  In denying the request for injunctive relief, the Court explained:

[A]n asset freeze appears inappropriate in this case, as Plaintiff does not seek any equitable relief. See Levi Strauss & Co. v. Sunrise Int’l Trading Inc., 51 F.3d 982, 987 (11th Cir. 1995) (“A request for equitable relief invokes the district court’s inherent equitable powers to order preliminary relief, including an asset freeze, in order to assure the availability of permanent relief.”); see also TemPay, Inc. v. Biltres Staffing of Tampa Bay, LLC, 929 F. Supp. 2d 1255, 1261 (M.D. Fla. 2013) (“[F]ederal courts have recognized the propriety of asset freezes where . . . a plaintiff seeks equitable relief . . . .”) (citation omitted). Generally, asset freezes are inappropriate where the assets are suspended merely to satisfy a potential monetary judgment.

This motion provides a simple lesson for probate lawyers in Federal court.  When an estate is suing over issues of real or tangible personal property, adding a claim for equitable relief may allow an injunction to be issued to freeze assets and prevent dissipation of the assets.  Indeed, in any dispute, if equitable claims can properly be brought, such claims can go a long way in receiving temporary injunctive relief to freeze assets and the status quo.

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