Irreparable Harm Law & Legal Definition


Irreparable harm is a legal concept whch argues that the type of harm threatened cannot be corrected through monetary compensation or conditions cannot be put back the way they were. Examples of such irreparable harm may arise in cutting down shade trees, polluting a stream, not giving a child needed medication, not supporting an excavation which may cause collapse of a building, tearing down a structure, among other actions or omissions.

Irreparable harm is often required to be shown to claim that a judge should order an injunction, writ, temporary restraining order or other equitable judicial action. The party seeking such relief will argue that the judicial action is required to prevent an imminent injury for which there is no other way to prevent the threatened harm.

The standard for showing irreparable has been explained by the D.C. Circuit as follows:

"First, the injury must be both certain and great; it must be actual and not theoretical. Injunctive relief ‘will not be granted against something merely feared as liable to occur at some indefinite time.’ It is also well settled that economic loss does not, in and of itself, constitute irreparable harm. . . . Implicit in each of these principles is the further requirement that the movant substantiate the claim that irreparable injury is ‘likely’ to occur. Bare allegations of what is likely to occur are of no value since the court must decide whether the harm will in fact occur. The movant must provide proof that the harm has occurred in the past and is likely to occur again, or proof indicating that the harm is certain to occur in the near future."