United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
JEFFREY E. HOWELL, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
Patrick Hanlon United States District Judge
Howell's lawsuit against the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) concerns whether
the SSA overpaid him $3, 754 and wrongfully withheld $1, 285
from him. Dkt. 1. Specifically, Mr. Howell alleges that the
SSA wrongly determined that the $3, 754 in disability
benefits he received for October, November and December 2013
was an overpayment. Dkt. 1 at 5 (Compl. ¶¶ 32-33).
Mr. Howell further alleges that the SSA wrongly withheld $1,
285 in disability benefits that he should have received for
January 2016. Dkt. 1 at 5 (¶ 35). In his prayer for
relief, Mr. Howell seeks a declaratory judgment that he is
entitled to the disability benefits for October, November and
December 2013; a temporary restraining order and/or
preliminary injunction prohibiting the SSA from withholding
benefits; and an order that any amount already withheld to be
repaid with interest. Dkt. 1 at 7 (¶¶ 50-52). Mr.
Howell filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and
preliminary injunction on January 2, 2020. Dkt. .
obtain a temporary restraining order, Mr. Howell must show
that: (1) he has a reasonable likelihood of success on the
merits; (2) he has no adequate remedy at law; and (3) he will
suffer irreparable harm without injunctive
relief.Girl Scouts of Manitou Council, Inc. v.
Girl Scouts of the United States of Am. Inc., 549 F.3d
1079, 1086 (7th Cir. 2008). “Where the only remedy
sought at trial is damages, the two requirements -irreparable
harm, and no adequate remedy at law-merge. The question is
then whether the plaintiff will be made whole if he prevails
on the merits and is awarded damages.” Roland Mach.
Co. v. Dresser Indus., Inc., 749 F.2d 380, 386 (7th Cir.
1984). If Mr. Howell fails to meet any of these threshold
requirements, the Court must deny the injunction. Girl
Scouts of Manitou Council, Inc., 549 F.3d at 1086.
Court does not address whether Mr. Howell has shown a
likelihood of success on the merits because he has not shown
the other requirements. Mr. Howell has not demonstrated that
there is no adequate remedy at law. Mr. Howell seeks to
recover $1, 285 that he claims he was entitled to have
received as his disability benefit for January 2016, and to
retain the $3, 754 in disability benefits that he received
for October, November and December 2013. Dkt. 1; dkt. 9. If
Mr. Howell is successful with his action, he will be entitled
to monetary damages that are easily calculable and that can
be paid to him following the entry of final judgment. He has
not shown why this legal remedy is inadequate to redress his
claims. See D.U. v. Rhoades, 825 F.3d 331, 339 (7th
Cir. 2016) (Litigants will not meet the standard for
irreparable harm if “money damages could make [them]
whole again should [they] prevail” after a trial.);
Girl Scouts of Manitou Council, Inc., 549 F.3d 1079,
1095 (7th Cir. 2008) (“[A]n inadequate legal remedy is
when the nature of the loss incurred by the plaintiff makes
it difficult to calculate damages.”).
Howell similarly has not demonstrated that he will suffer
irreparable harm without injunctive relief. Some examples of
circumstances where damages as a remedy may be insufficient
and where irreparable harm may occur include: (1) a monetary
award being too late to save the plaintiff's business;
(2) the plaintiff not being able to finance his lawsuit
against the defendant without the revenues from his business
that the defendant is threatening to destroy; (3) damages
being potentially unobtainable from the defendant because he
may become insolvent before a final judgment can be entered
and collected; and (4) the nature of the plaintiff's loss
making damages very difficult to calculate. See Roland
Mach. Co., 749 F.2d at 386.
comparable circumstance exists here where the relief Mr.
Howell seeks is a determination whether the SSA wrongfully
withheld a month of disability benefits from him and whether
he may keep two months of disability benefits that the SSA
claims were wrongfully paid to him. “[T]he temporary
loss of income, ultimately to be recovered, does not usually
constitute irreparable injury.” Sampson v.
Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 90 (1974). Ultimately, Mr. Howell
will be made whole if he prevails on the merits and is
awarded damages. Id. Accordingly, Mr. Howell's
motion for a temporary restraining order is
DENIED. Dkt. .
Howell's motion for a preliminary injunction is
taken under advisement, pending response
from the Commissioner. Dkt. .
Howell's request to withdraw his previously filed ex
parte motion for a temporary restraining order, dkt. 3,
is GRANTED. Dkt. 9-1. The clerk is
directed to terminate the motion. Dkt. .
Mr. Howell's motion requesting service of process by the
United States Marshal is DENIED as moot.
Dkt. . Under Local Rule 5-12(a), and by agreement with the
United States Attorney, no actual service of initial process
is required in Social Security appeals brought in the United
States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
The Social Security Administration will treat notification
through the Court's Case Management and Electronic Filing
System (CM/ECF) as service under Rule 4 of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure.
 The standards for a temporary
restraining order and a preliminary injunction are the same.
See McCleskey v. Hooks AV, Ltd. Liab. Co., No.
1:18-cv-02397-JRS-DML, 2018 WL 5255011, ...