John Zavitsanos has been recognized by attorneys across the United States as one of the Best Lawyers in America. The 2015 honor is the tenth consecutive year this recognition has been bestowed on Mr. Zavitsanos by the nationally recognized publication of the same name. This distinction is awarded to less than 1% of all lawyers in the country. And Mr. Zavitsanos is recognized as a leader in Texas General Commercial Litigation in the 2014 edition of Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business published by London-based Chambers and Partners.
Mr. Zavitsanos appeared on the charter listing of Texas Super Lawyers in Texas Monthly magazine and has been named on the Super Lawyers list every single year this award has existed. Much like the Best Lawyers distinction, this award is voted upon by members of the bar and is limited to the top 5% of all practicing lawyers in the state of Texas. Moreover, Mr. Zavitsanos has repeatedly been identified as one of Houston’s best lawyers by a local magazine and is personally “AV” rated (the highest possible rating) by Martindale-Hubbell, the premier legal directory in the United States. Mr. Zavitsanos has been rated by the same group as “AV Preeminent” (highest possible) in the Business Litigation specialty.
Mr. Zavitsanos was named one of the Top 100 Texas Lawyers on the 2011 – 2014 Super Lawyers lists. In 2007-2014 the same group recognized Mr. Zavitsanos as one of the top 100 regional attorneys in business litigation. Mr. Zavitsanos has also been board certified in civil trial law since 1997 by both the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and the National Board of Trial Advocacy, an achievement held by less than 2% of all practicing lawyers in the state of Texas. In 2008, Mr. Zavitsanos was one of six lawyers from the Houston area elected to the advocate level of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), one of the most selective trial lawyer organizations in the country. He was named to the “Who’s Who in Energy” lists of energy industry leaders in seven major U.S. cities published in 2011 and 2012.
Mr. Zavitsanos’ cases have repeatedly been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, the Texas Lawyer, and many other national publications. Mr. Zavitsanos (and the rest of the Firm) represents both plaintiffs and defendants in a wide variety of cases. He has tried more than 75 cases to a verdict in a multitude of areas of the law including financial services, construction, oil and gas, complex commercial disputes, director and officer liability, non-compete/trade secret disputes, and catastrophic personal injury.
Given Mr. Zavitsanos’ extensive trial experience, he is often hired as special trial counsel by other law firms. He uses a number of innovative techniques in the courtroom that have enabled him to win the overwhelming majority of his many trials.
Mr. Zavitsanos’ litigation experience includes not only a multitude of jury trials, but a significant number of bench trials, administrative trials, and oral arguments to the federal and state courts of appeal. It is because of this battle-tested experience that he is asked to frequently lecture at CLE seminars on trial and litigation techniques in complex cases.
Having tried more than 75 cases to a verdict, Mr. Zavitsanos is regularly hired by other lawyers on the eve of trial to assume first chair trial responsibility. In 2008, Mr. Zavitsanos tried two large business cases for more than 5 1/2 months. The collective amount at issue is both suits was more than $75 million. In 2007, Mr. Zavitsanos tried six cases to conclusion, including a three-week bench trial on behalf of a Fortune 300 company involving a $150 million offshore pipeline dispute. Following a ruling in favor of the Firm’s client, the case settled with the plaintiff paying a substantial amount to the Firm’s client in exchange for the acquisition of certain assets. All of the cases Zavitsanos tried in 2007 and 2008 resulted in verdicts in favor of the Firm’s clients.
Mr. Zavitsanos has represented many publicly traded companies in a variety of disputes with former employees including non-competition agreements, theft of trade secrets, Title VII disputes, and a variety of other claims.
In 2007, Mr. Zavitsanos was selected to serve on a five-member committee by the Ecumenical Patriarch of the worldwide Greek Orthodox Church to investigate the possibility of initiating human rights litigation against the government of Turkey before the European Courts of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. The Ecumenical Patriarch is the spiritual head of 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world and is located in Istanbul, Turkey. As a member of this committee Mr. Zavitsanos is working closely with numerous internationally renowned human rights lawyers, including lawyers from the American Center for Law and Justice, the European Center for Law and Justice and some prominent human rights lawyers from Turkey.
These are some of the results of Mr. Zavitsanos’ cases:
- In 2012, Mr. Zavitsanos with partner Todd Mensing and firm attorneys Elizabeth Pannill Fletcher and Jane Robinson, garnered a defense win for Mistras Group Inc. in federal court by not only beating a competing company that sought $8 million in damages and was awarded nothing, but by also getting the trademark at issue dissolved. AZA lawyers won over both the judge and jury. It was the judge who granted Mistras the win on the $8 million trademark claim and the jury that found the mark was generic or descriptive.
- In 2011, Mr. Zavitsanos and Elizabeth Pannill Fletcher secured a defense verdict for Mistras Group Inc. following a trade secret case that included an award of $750,000 in attorneys’ fees. Mistras, a New Jersey-based company that assesses the safety of large corporate and infrastructure components such as refineries and bridges, was wrongly accused by Texas-based Sentinel Integrity Solutions of interfering with an employment agreement and obtaining confidential information when it hired a former Sentinel employee. According to Texas Lawyer’s verdict list, this was the fourth largest defense win in Texas in 2011.
- In 2011, Mr. Zavitsanos, along with Todd Mensing of the Firm, represented a man defamed by The Fort Bend Star and a reporter at the paper and won both in an interlocutory appeal and a jury verdict. In this case the Houston Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the trial court’s denial of the Fort Bend Star’s Motion for Summary Judgment and rejected the Star’s argument that Texas should expand the “limited purpose public figure” doctrine. The jury later returned a remarkable $1.1 million verdict for the client over an article that made false allegations about his behavior and falsely claimed his father, a law enforcement officer, covered for him.
- In 2008, Mr. Zavitsanos was retained in a $40 million “bet the company” case involving claims brought against A&B Valve and Supply, an oilfield supply company by National Oil Well Varco. He was hired three months prior to the scheduled trial date. Shortly before Zavitsanos was hired, the trial court had entered a temporary injunction prohibiting A&B from doing business with a substantial number of its customers. This resulted in millions of dollars of losses. Within thirty days of being hired, Zavitsanos successfully obtained a writ of mandamus against the trial court and reversed the temporary injunction. They then proceeded to trial in March 2008. After five weeks of evidence, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Zavitsanos’ client on all claims. This case received national and international attention and was featured in the National Law Journal, the Texas Lawyer, and over 25 newspapers around the world.
- In 2007, Mr. Zavitsanos was the lead trial counsel in a three-week trial involving a $150 million contractual dispute about a jointly owed offshore gas pipeline. Following a successful decision in favor of the Firm’s client, the plaintiff immediately launched settlement discussion and resolved the dispute by paying a substantial amount to Zavitsanos’ client in exchange for the acquisition of certain assets.
- In 2007, Mr. Zavitsanos, along with his partner Todd Mensing, represented a vice president of a publicly traded seismic company. Despite substantial evidence during trial that the plaintiff had been severed during a company wide restructuring, Zavitsanos and Mensing succeeded in obtaining a substantial seven-figure verdict in favor of their client by proving age discrimination.
- In 2007, Zavitsanos prevailed in a lengthy arbitration in Chicago on behalf of a national drug company. He recovered all attorneys’ fees incurred by the Firm’s client against a codefendant from a prior wrongful death case in San Antonio, Texas. In the earlier case, the wrongful death case settled for millions of dollars, but Zavitsanos’ client paid nothing. Following the conclusion of that litigation, Zavitsanos’ client initiated arbitration against the codefendant to recover all of the fees from the defense of the San Antonio case. The arbitrator awarded Zavitsanos’ client 100% of the fees incurred in defending the wrongful death case.
- In 2005, Mr. Zavitsanos was one of the lead attorneys representing over 63 plaintiffs in an accounting malpractice jury trial involving over $30 million in actual damages. The case was covered by the national media extensively. Shortly after trial began, the defendant settled for a confidential amount.
- Between 1990 — present, Mr. Zavitsanos has been statewide counsel for Mercedes-Benz USA. During this time frame, Mr. Zavitsanos has tried a number of cases to verdict and has never lost a jury trial defending Mercedes-Benz.
- In 2003, Mr. Zavitsanos represented a national pharmacy company as a plaintiff in a significant breach of contract case. Following the completion of the evidence, the defendant agreed to settle the case for 95% of the damages and attorneys fees incurred by Mr. Zavitsanos’ client.
- In 2002, Mr. Zavitsanos was the lead lawyer for the defense in an $8 million business tort case. The trial lasted over one month and included over 1,000 trial exhibits. Because of the voluminous number of documents and witnesses, Mr. Zavitsanos and his trial team utilized the latest technology to present the case to the jury. The trial was completely “paperless.” Immediately prior to trial, Mr. Zavitsanos’ client offered nearly $1 million to settle the case, which the plaintiff company rejected. Following the month- long trial, the jury found in favor of his client on every single claim.
- In 2001, Mr. Zavitsanos obtained a seven-figure jury verdict against a publicly traded company in a fraud claim brought by the company’s former director of Mergers and Acquisitions.
- In 1998, Mr. Zavitsanos tried what is believed to be the first same sex harassment case to verdict in the United States. Mr. Zavitsanos’ client recovered over $1,000,000 in damages and fees in this landmark case. Mota v. University of Houston Health Science Center, 261 F.3d 512 (5th Cir. 2001).
- In 1997, two weeks prior to trial, Mr. Zavitsanos was brought in to defend a significant sexual harassment case against a well-known rap music label. The case was followed within the music industry because the plaintiff’s assertions included an allegation that the explicit lyrics of the music produced by this record label were played throughout their corporate offices and were part of the sexually hostile work environment. A number of prominent executives within the music industry testified during this trial. Following a two-week trial, the jury deliberated less than forty-five minutes in delivering a verdict in favor of the record company. One interesting sidelight is that Mr. Zavitsanos was able to strike over 70 potential jurors for cause during jury selection.
- In 1997, Mr. Zavitsanos defended a Fortune 100 chemical company in a multimillion-dollar toxic exposure case. The plaintiff claimed that he was completely disabled due to being exposed to toxic substances. The plaintiff’s “bottom line” settlement demand was over $4,000,000. The case went to trial and, following the cross examination of the plaintiff by Mr. Zavitsanos, the case settled for a small fraction of the plaintiff’s final demand and the amount that Mr. Zavitsanos had offered more than 18 months previously.
- In 1996, Mr. Zavitsanos was the lead trial lawyer on behalf of seven police officers who filed suit alleging that they were terminated because of their political expression. The case was followed nationally by a number of police organizations and, following a successful appeal; it is now considered one of the leading decisions in this area of the law. Brady v. Fort Bend County, 145 F.3d 691 (5th Cir. 1998).
- In 1995, Mr. Zavitsanos represented an oil and gas limited partnership that was a defendant in a suit involving allegations of fraud and breach of fiduciary duty. The plaintiff sought $8 million in damages against Mr. Zavitsanos’ client and several other defendants. Following a lengthy jury trial, Mr. Zavitsanos’ client was exonerated on all counts, even though the other defendants were found liable.
Mr. Zavitsanos’ fast paced trial practice has not stopped him from finding time to serve his community. He is a member of the Archdiocesan Council of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, as well as a member of the executive committee of the Order of St. Andrew (the Greek Orthodox equivalent to the Knights of Columbus of the Catholic Church). He has served as a board member of the Houston Lawyer Referral Service and has worked on a number of pro bono cases over the years, including working on a prisoner abuse case that involved (at that time) one of the largest settlements with the state of Texas in Texas history for a single plaintiff. Mr. Zavitsanos was recognized as an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Greek Orthodox Church in 2004. An Archon is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a member of the laity within the worldwide Greek Orthodox Church. There are less than 750 Archons in the United States. Mr. Zavitsanos is also a board member of the Menil Art Museum in Houston. Mr. Zavitsanos has been married for over 20 years and has four children.
Prior to forming the firm in 1993 with Joseph Ahmad, Mr. Zavitsanos was with the Houston office of Baker & Botts, L.L.P. in their trial department. While at Baker Botts, Mr. Zavitsanos tried many cases and obtained a verdict in excess of $1 million as lead trial counsel during only his third year of practice.
- Loyola University of Chicago (B.S., magna cum laude, 1984)
- University of Michigan (J.D., 1987)
HONORS & DISTINCTIONS
- Board Certified, Civil Trial Advocacy Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy
- Board Certified, Civil Trial Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization
- Who’s Who in American Law
- Million Dollar Advocate Forum
- The Best Lawyers in America, 2006-2015
- Leader in Texas General Commercial Litigation in the 2014 edition of Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business
- Texas Super Lawyers, 2003 – 2014
- Top 100 Texas Lawyers, 2011-2014
- Top 100 Regional Business Litigators, 2007-2014
- Outstanding Lawyers of America, 2003 – present
- Who’s Who in Energy, 2011-2014
- Houston Areas Top Lawyers – H Texas magazine, 2004, 2005
- College of the State Bar of Texas, 2005
- Top Rated Lawyers®-AV® Preeminent in Intellectual Property Law, 2012
- State Bar of Texas (Sections in Litigation; Labor)
- Admitted in all state and federal trial and appellate courts in Texas
- Admitted to United States Supreme Court
- Admitted to the federal District Court of Colorado
- Houston Bar Association
- Texas Trial Lawyers Association
- Houston Trial Lawyers Association
- Fellow, Houston Bar Foundation
- Fellow, Texas Bar Foundation
- American Inns of Court
- In re Seiscom Delta, Inc., 857 F.2d 279 (5th Cir. 1988)
- Gulf Coast Inv. Corp. v. NASA 1 Business Center, 754 S.W.2d 152 (Tex. 1988)
- Brady v. Fort Bend County, 145 F.3d 691 (5th Cir. 1998)
- Redwine v. AAA Life Ins. Co., 852 S.W.2d 10 (Tex. App. – Dallas 1993, no writ)
- Evans v. United Air Lines, 986 F.2d 942 (5th Cir. 1993)
- LaBella v. Mercedes-Benz of North America, 942 S.W.2d 127 (Tex. App. – Amarillo, 1997, writ denied)
- Thompson v. City of Galveston, 979 F.Supp. 504 (S.D. Tex. 1997)
- Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Haney, 987 S.W.2d 236 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist] 1999, pet. denied)
- Texas Dept. of Public Safety v. Randle, 31 S.W.3d 786 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 2001, no pet.)
- Mota v. University of Texas Houston Health Science Center, 261 F.3d 512 (5th Cir. 2001)
- Pratt v. City of Houston, 247 F.3d 601 (5th Cir. 2001)
- National Union Fire Insurance Co. v. Willis, 296 F.3d 336 (5th Cir. 2002)
- Jones v. Star Motor Cars, 45 S.W.3d 350 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 2001, no pet.)
- Livesay v. Wellogix, Inc., 2003 WL 139730 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 2003)
- In re: Wheat, 2002 WL 31320095 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 2002)
- Comsys Information Technology Svc. Inc. v. Twin City Fire Ins. Co., 130 S.W.3d 181 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 2003)
- In re: KPMG, 2005 WL 66475 (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.] 2005)
- Recognition Communication, Inc. v. American Automobile Ass’n., 154 S.W.3d 878 (Tex. App. – Dallas 2005)
- Klentzman v. Brady, 2009 WL5174369 (Tex. App–Houston [1st Dist.], December 31, 2009).
PUBLICATIONS, PAPERS AND CLE PRESENTATIONS
Mr. Zavitsanos has prepared the following written materials and made presentations at the following seminars:
- Jury Selection and Voir Dire, Including Batson Challenges, Employment Law Seminar, December 1998
- Asserting, Contesting and Preserving Privileges Under the New Rules, University of Houston Law Foundation – Advanced Civil Discovery Under the New Rules, June 2000
- Punitive Damages – Phase II, University of Houston Law Center – Litigation and Trial Tactics, December 2000
- Preparing Your Witness for Deposition and Trial, University of Houston Law Foundation, June 2002
- Credibility and Impeachment: Fundamentals of Direct and Cross- Examination, University of Houston Law Foundation – How to Offer and Exclude Evidence, September 2002.
- Witness Credibility – How To Prepare, Achieve, And Destroy It, Lorman Education Services, September 2004
- Preparing Your Witness for Deposition and Trial, Houston Bar Association, November 2004
- Types of Claims and Their Values, Houston Bar Association, September 2005
- Preparing Your Witness for Deposition and Trial, Houston Bar Association, March 2006
- Witness Credibility – How To Prepare, Achieve, And Destroy It; Lorman Education Services, June 2006
- Credibility and Impeachment – University of Houston Law Foundation; Advanced Evidence and Discovery, November 2007
- “Cross Examination,” University of Houston Law Foundation, Civil Litigation, February 2008
- “Lessons Learned from Trying a Breach of Fiduciary Case,” Houston Bar Association, Litigation Section, December 2008
- “Witness Credibility at Depositions and Trial – Do’s and Don’ts,” State Bar of Texas – Texas Minority Counsel Program, 18th Annual Conference, September 2010
- “Witness Credibility in Trial and Depositions,” Texas Lawyer’s In-House Counsel Summit, April 2014, November 2013, May 2012
- “Punitive Damages in Commercial Litigation: Pursuing and Defending Claims – Leveraging Pretrial Motions, Discovery and Trial Strategies, Navigating Constitutional Restraints” webinar, Strafford Publications Inc., April 2014
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***Mr. Zavitsanos is board certified in civil trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.