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Lord & Taylor, LLC v. White Flint, L.P. - 780 F.3d 211 (4th Cir. 2015)

Rule:

Trial courts retain discretion to deny specific performance or injunctive relief (Maryland case law does not distinguish between the two for these purposes) where enforcement would be "unreasonably difficult" or require "long-continued supervision" by the court. So, for instance, an injunction may be denied as infeasible if it would compel the parties to continue a commercial relationship, or require the court to closely monitor the caliber of their performance. Specific performance may be denied where the court would be required to issue a multiplicity of orders in its endeavor to superintend the parties' work. Indeed, because such affirmative injunctions are difficult to draft clearly and even harder to enforce, Maryland courts typically will issue them only where no other relief is possible. And the inquiry into feasibility is itself wide ranging and equitable in nature, with courts instructed to consider broadly the "advantages to be gained" from injunctive relief as well as "the harm to be suffered" if an injunction is denied as infeasible.

Facts:

For many years, Plaintiff Lord & Taylor, LLC (Lord & Taylor) operated a retail store connected to the White Flint Shopping Center (Mall), an enclosed shopping mall along Rockville Pike in Montgomery County, Maryland. In October 2012, the Montgomery County Council approved plans to tear down the Mall and redevelop the site into a mixed-use, town-center-style development as part of the county's broader plan to revitalize the surrounding area. Lord & Taylor filed this action to stop the Mall's owner, Defendant White Flint, L.P. (White Flint), from going forward with the redevelopment. In addition to declaratory relief, Lord & Taylor seeks a permanent injunction that would prohibit White Flint from replacing the Mall with the proposed town center.

The district court denied Lord & Taylor's request, concluding that an injunction would be unworkable in light of the already advanced stage of the project: either the court would be required to supervise the repopulation and restoration of the largely vacant Mall, or the effect of its order would be to suspend the site in its current unusable state. Lord & Taylor sought appellate review.

Issue:

Did the district court err in exercising its equitable discretion when it dismissed Lord & Taylor’s request for a permanent injunction compelling White Flint to honor the terms of the REA?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held thatthe district court properly denied Lord & Taylor’s request for a permanent injunction compelling White Flint to honor the terms of the REA; it was not a clear error of judgment to find that injunctive relief would be infeasible since much of the mall was vacant, an order that White Flint abide by its obligations under the REA would require judicial oversight, and a negative injunction would freeze in place a vacant and partially demolished mall. Maryland law clearly authorized the district court to go beyond the state-law presumption in favor of injunctive relief to consider the feasibility of what it was being asked to do.

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