With a particular focus on energy, environmental, construction, and financial matters, John K. Gisleson represents clients across a range of business litigation issues. He has tried cases in the construction, energy, environmental, financial institution, manufacturing, real estate, retail, securities, and waste industries. John has served as lead trial counsel in both defending and prosecuting matters, and has represented clients in arbitration. He also maintains an active pro bono practice.
John’s pro bono work includes an asylum appeal for a Croatian woman who was a domestic violence victim in that country. He has worked on death penalty cases and has been involved with a constitutional challenge to the elimination of the International Baccalaureate Programme in a Pittsburgh-area school district.
John is a fellow of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County, an organization limited to 250 elected lawyers engaged in civil trial practice in US state and federal courts.
Energy and Environmental Litigation
Lead trial counsel in defense of independent oil and gas operator against claims that hydraulic fracturing caused groundwater contamination. Landowner claimed contamination from deep upward migration of fracturing fluids from target shale, from releases from a drill cuttings pit and an impoundment, and from surficial spills and releases. Case tried over the course of 20 hearing days before Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board in first trial of its kind before EHB, which found in favor of the operator and against the landowner.
Lead trial counsel in defense of claims against a coke plant involving alleged Clean Air Act and RCRA violations based on emissions of particulate from battery combustion stack and of hydrogen sulfide from byproducts plant. Case was tried in the US District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. EPA/DOJ sought civil penalties and mandatory injunctive relief reaching $100 million.
Lead trial counsel in defense of class action brought by landowner-lessors of oil, gas, and coal rights in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. Plaintiffs alleged breach of contract, breach of Pennsylvania Securities Act, and unauthorized practice of law against land aggregator. Obtained dismissal of lawsuit on motion to dismiss before Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Affirmed in published opinion by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.
Lead trial counsel in defense of class action brought by landowner-lessors for breach of contract when oil and gas operator rejected landowners’ leases for oil and gas rights involving approximately 30,000 acres in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.
Lead trial counsel in defense of claims against gas operator that operator engaged in bad faith unitization.
Co-lead trial counsel in defense of claims against oil and gas operator based on allegations of soil and water contamination, property damage, and personal injury.
Lead trial counsel in defense of claims against oil and gas operator based on alleged termination of lease for oil and gas rights. Operator asserted force majeure among other defenses.
Lead trial counsel in defense of water treatment company against claims of damage to an impoundment liner that allegedly resulted in releases of flowback water.
Lead trial counsel in prosecution of claims for breach of contract based on improper termination of services agreement involving treatment of flowback water and sale of related chemicals.
Lead trial counsel in prosecution of claims for breach of noncompete in an asset purchase agreement ancillary to sale of a business engaged in hauling and disposal of drill cuttings and wastewater from well sites. Enforced noncompete through injunction trial and shut down competing business.
Lead trial counsel in prosecution of claims involving unfair competition, trademark infringement, and misappropriation of trade secrets concerning the design, manufacture and sale of industrial water tube boilers, with the case being tried in the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The damages claim exceeded $10 million.
Lead trial counsel in defense of claim for breach of noncompete in an employment agreement for a former employee of a manufacturer of nuclear reactor coolant pumps.
Lead trial counsel in defense of claims for breach of alleged oral agreement involving replacement of end flues in coke ovens.
Lead trial counsel in defense of breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims involving alleged oral agreement for sale of 80,000 net tons of metallurgical coal allegedly worth $24 million.
Lead trial counsel in defense of breach of contract claim involving written anthracite coal purchase agreement providing for purchase of 110,000 tons per year over six years. Litigation involved whether agreement was extended due to multiple alleged force majeure events.
Co-counsel to the special litigation committee of the board of directors of H.J. Heinz Company in connection with the evaluation of shareholder demands and lawsuits arising out of the $28 billion sale of the company to an investor group consisting of Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital affiliates.
Co-lead trial counsel in defense of directors and officers in the manufacturing industry against claims of breach of fiduciary duty (among others) in connection with leveraged recapitalization and redemption transactions. The damages claim exceeded $100 million.
Lead trial counsel in prosecution of accounting malpractice claims arising out of a $309 million asset sale in the healthcare industry. The case was tried in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, with the damages claim exceeding $100 million.
Lead trial counsel in defense of claims against directors and controlling shareholders of a close corporation for breach of fiduciary duty and oppression of a minority shareholder.
Co-lead trial counsel in defense of directors of an insurance carrier in a dispute with other directors over control of the carrier.
Investigation and prosecution of accounting and legal malpractice claims, as well as claims against officers and directors, arising out of the failure of financial institutions in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Florida, and Colorado that led to the recovery of millions of dollars. The claims centered on commercial and real estate loans, and the damages claims were in the tens of millions of dollars.
Prosecution of claims on behalf of limited partners in real estate partnerships concerning the allocation of proceeds in a portfolio sale of commercial properties. The damages claim exceeded $25 million.
Prosecution and defense of breach of fiduciary duty and related claims against directors and officers, including lead trial counsel in the defense of outside directors sued by a bankruptcy trustee for $54 million in connection with the failure of a home healthcare company.
Lead trial counsel in defense of the assignee of a partnership interest against fraud and breach of contract claims. The case was tried in the US District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, with damages claims in the millions of dollars.
Lead trial counsel in defense of securities claims involving control of, or payments from, retirement accounts.
Lead trial counsel in prosecution and defense of claims involving commercial real estate leases.
Lead trial counsel in prosecution of, and defense against, challenges to the award of municipal contracts in injunction proceedings.
Lead trial counsel in enforcement and defense of restrictive covenants through injunction proceedings for a variety of industries, including the energy, manufacturing, and mortgage brokerage industries.
Lead trial counsel in several construction arbitrations that were tried to decision.
Lead trial counsel in representation of the Allegheny County Airport Authority in various construction matters involving the Pittsburgh International Airport.
Lead trial counsel in defense of a hotel developer in an arbitration under the AAA construction rules against claims by a general contractor that the contractor had a contractual right to build the hotel.
Lead trial counsel in defense of a construction manager against claims of delay and disruption in connection with additions and alterations to elementary schools.
Lead trial counsel for construction manager in prosecution of claims for additional costs.
Lead trial counsel in defense of a general contractor against claims by a subcontractor for sums allegedly due under a construction contract, with the case being tried in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County.
Lead trial counsel in prosecution of claims involving allegedly defective concrete.
Lead trial counsel in investigation and defense of job-site personal injury claims on construction projects.
Counseling of clients concerning construction claims for additional compensation.
Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, 1991, J.D.
University of Notre Dame, 1988, B.A., Cum Laude
U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
U.S. District Courts for the Eastern, Western, and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania
U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Supreme Courts of Pennsylvania and Louisiana
Awards and Affiliations
Fellow, Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County
Recommended, Industry focus: Energy litigation: oil and gas, The Legal 500 US (2018)
Ranked, Best Lawyers in America, Commercial Litigation (2013–2018)
Ranked, Who’s Who in Energy, Pittsburgh Business Times (2017)
Recognized as a "Future Star" for Pennsylvania in Benchmark Litigation (2011–2014, 2017, 2018)
Noted as a "Pennsylvania Super Lawyer" for business litigation (2004–2015)
Fellow, Academy of Advocacy of Temple University (2001)
Fellow, Allegheny County Bar Foundation
Rated AV® Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell®
Member, Allegheny County Bar Association
Member, Washington County Bar Association
Chair, Energy Section of the Washington County Bar Association
Member, Civil Litigation Section Council of the Allegheny County Bar Association
Member, International Association of Defense Counsel
Past President of the Board of Trustees, Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra
Member, Board of Trustees and Chair of the Ethics and Compliance Committee, Carlow University
Past President, Rotary Club of Upper St. Clair-Bethel Park
Master, American Inns of Court, Pittsburgh Chapter