One Oxford Centre, 32nd Fl.//Pittsburgh, PA 15219-6401//United States
With a particular focus on energy, environmental, construction, and financial matters, John K. Gisleson represents clients across a range of business litigation issues. John 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 the defense of a man convicted of first-degree murder who obtained a new trial on culpability that was to focus on degree of guilt. He previously conducted an asylum appeal for a Croatian woman who was a domestic violence victim in that country. He has experience working on death penalty cases and was 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
An independent oil and gas operator as lead trial counsel 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. Decision affirmed by Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. Loren Kiskadden v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Dept. of Envt’l Protection and Range Resources Appalachia, LLC, EHB Docket No. 2011-149-R, affirmed, 149 A.3d 380 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2016)
Owner-operator of coke plant as lead trial counsel in defense of claims 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. Verdict for owner-operator on all disputed claims. EPA/DOJ voluntarily dismissed appeal. United States v. Mountain State Carbon, LLC, Docket No. 5:12-CV-19 (N.D.W.V.)
Lead counsel in defense of individual, mass, and class actions involving royalty claims arising out of production under natural gas leases
A midstream natural gas operator as lead counsel defending against claims for breach of contract based on gathering rates charged for operator’s own gas
A renewable energy developer (wind) as lead trial counsel defending against claims by energy producer seeking to enjoin developer from use of surface in areas where producer wanted to construct well pads. Wind developer allowed to proceed with development. JKLM Energy LLC v. Big Level Wind LLC, Docket No. 2017-86 (C.C.P. Potter County, Pennsylvania)
A land aggregator as lead 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 the 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. Lenau v. Co-Exprise, Inc., 102 A.2d 423 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2014)
A hydraulic fracturing contractor as lead counsel in prosecution of claims against producer for breach of MSA. Dispute centered compliance with KPIs, including number of stages per day
An oil and gas operator as lead 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
An oil and gas operator as lead counsel in defense of claims that operator engaged in bad faith unitization
Natural gas producer as lead counsel in defense of title and adverse possession claims involving natural gas leases
A natural gas producer as lead trial counsel in nonjury trial with another producer concerning competing leases offered to an estate and dispute as to whose lease terms were in the best interests of estate and its heirs. In re: D.K. Phillips Estate, Docket No. 9626 of 1925 (CCP Greene County, Pennsylvania)
A water treatment company as co-lead counsel defending against claims of damage to an impoundment liner that allegedly resulted in releases of flowback and produced water
Lead 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. Waste Management of Pennsylvania v. Mark Kile et al., Civil Action No. 10-9210 (C.C.P. Columbia Co.)
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 before a jury in the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. The damages claim exceeded $10 million. Case settled shortly after cross-examination of defendant’s chief executive. Indeck Keystone Energy LLC v. Victory Energy Operations LLC, 1:04-cv-00325 (W.D. Pa.)
Lead 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 counsel in defense of claims for breach of alleged oral agreement involving replacement of end flues in coke ovens
Lead 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 three-week jury trial involving the defense of a financial institution against a $30 million conversion claim involving nanotechnology used in the defense and manufacturing industries. Defense verdict affirmed on appeal. Sampathkumar v. Chase Home Finance LLC, Docket No. 5978 of 2012), affirmed, 544 WDA 2019.
Co-lead trial counsel in prosecution of claims for damage to 39-building, 426-unit apartment complex devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Claimed damages exceeded $40 million. Case tried before a jury in the Civil District Court in Orleans Parish, Louisiana and settled during plaintiff’s case-in-chief. Strouse Greenberg Properties L.P. et al. v. Lexington Insurance Co., Civil Action No. 07-8378.
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 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 before a jury in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, with the damages claim exceeding $100 million. Arlin M. Adams, as Chapter 11 Trustee of the Bankruptcy Estate of Coram Healthcare Corp. v. Price Waterhouse LLP, Civil Action No. 97 L 14456, Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.
Lead arbitration counsel in defense of on-line brokerage against multimillion dollar claims of trading losses allegedly arising from flaws in trading platform. All claims rejected following arbitration. Jesse Erdle v. E*Trade, FINRA No. 18-02708.
Lead trial counsel in defense of bakery manufacturer against claims of wrongful termination of distributorship. Defense verdict affirmed on appeal. Joseph Baran v. George Weston Bakeries Inc. et al., Docket No. 08-02117 (CCP Allegheny Co.), affirmed, 209 A.3d 488 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2019).
Lead 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.
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. Plaintiff recanted allegations during his cross-examination, and case resolved immediately thereafter. David W. Coffin, Sr. v. David W. Coffin, Jr., 4:00-cv-00578 (M.D. Pa. 2000).
Lead counsel in defense of securities claims involving control of, or payments from, retirement accounts.
Lead trial counsel in prosecution of, and defense against, challenges to the award of municipal contracts in injunction proceedings. See, e.g., Christopher Kierski and Vogel Disposal v. Robinson Township and Waste Management of Pennsylvania, Inc., 810 A.2d 196 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2002).
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 prosecution of contract claims by general contractor in two-week arbitration against owner seeking disputed structural steel allowance and other contract sums. Panel awarded $6.8 million in damages.
Lead trial counsel in defense of claims for breach of contract and bad faith by general contractor against owner-operator of wastewater treatment plant. Verdict for contractor reversed in its entirely on appeal, with direction to enter judgment for owner-operator on main claims in dispute. Robert J. Cummins dba Bob Cummins Construction Company v. Bradford Sanitary Authority, No. 199 CD 2016 (CCP McKean County), reversed, 237 A.2d 584 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2020).
Lead arbitration counsel in several construction arbitrations that were tried to decision involving construction defects or delay claims.
Lead arbitration 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. Defeated claims; award for developer.
Lead 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 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 counsel in investigation and defense of job-site personal injury claims on construction projects.
Counseling of clients concerning construction claims for additional compensation.
Awards and Affiliations
Recognized, Commercial Litigation, Pittsburgh, The Best Lawyers in America (2013–2020)