Sean E. Ponist

Attorney Profile

Top Rated Business Litigation Attorney in San Francisco, CA

Ponist Law Group
 | 100 Pine Street, Suite 1250
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: 415-798-2222
Selected to Super Lawyers: 2011 - 2018
Licensed Since: 1999
Practice Areas:
  • Business Litigation (50%),
  • Civil Litigation: Plaintiff (20%),
  • Real Estate: Business (20%),
  • Construction Litigation: Business (10%)
Attorney Profile

A highly regarded trial attorney, Sean E. Ponist is the founder of Ponist Law Group, P.C. Located in San Diego, California, he represents people and companies throughout the state in real estate, business and construction disputes. A forceful courtroom advocate for his clients, Mr. Ponist also has extensive experience in pursuing resolutions to some of his cases through arbitration. Admitted to practice before all California state courts, he is also admitted to practice before the U.S. District Courts for the Northern, Eastern, Central and Southern Districts of California, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Mr. Ponist's real estate litigation experience encompasses a wide variety of matters. He has handled cases involving purchase and sale disputes, partition actions, easements, eminent domain, nondisclosure, boundary disputes, commercial unlawful detainer and other landlord-tenant issues, and broker lawsuits. In his construction litigation practice, Mr. Ponist's background encompasses construction defect lawsuits, construction contract disputes, design defects and mechanic's liens. His business litigation experience has included breach of contract actions, partnership and limited liability company disputes, unfair competition, business insurance claims and securities litigation.

Majoring in philosophy, Mr. Ponist attended the University of California, Los Angeles, and he received a Bachelor of Arts in 1995. He then pursued his legal education at the University of California, Davis, School of Law, and he was awarded his Juris Doctor in 1999. After graduation, Mr. Ponist served as a deputy district attorney with the Marin County District Attorney's Office before entering private practice. An active participant in several professional organizations, he is the chair of the Real Property Law Section of the San Diego County Bar Association.

Practice Areas
Lawyer Practice Area Pie Chart

Business Litigation (50%): Trade Secret, Non-Compete Agreements

Civil Litigation (20%)

Real Estate (20%): Condominiums & Cooperatives, Landlord/Tenant, Mortgage & Refinance, Short Sale

Construction Litigation (10%): Construction Defects

Focus Areas

Trade Secret, Non-Compete Agreements, Condominiums & Cooperatives, Landlord/Tenant, Mortgage & Refinance, Short Sale, Construction Defects


Selected to Super Lawyers for 8 yearsbottom-image

Super Lawyers: 2011 - 2018

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About Sean Ponist

Admitted: 1999, California

Professional Webpage:

Honors and Awards:

  • Best of Bar, San Diego Business Journal, 2016
  • Super Lawyer, 2011-2016

Bar/Professional Activity:

  • Member, San Francisco and San Diego County Bar Associations
  • Board Member, San Mateo County Barristers, 2008 – 2010
  • Executive Committee, San Mateo County Bar Association, Client Relations Committee, 2013
  • Vice-Chair and Board Member, San Francisco Bar Association Real Property Section, 2011-Present
  • Vice-Chair and Board Member, San Diego County Bar Association Real Property Section, 2014-Present
  • The California Supreme Court
  • All Nevada federal and state courts
  • All California federal and state courts
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • United States Court of Appeal, Ninth Circuit

Scholarly Lectures and Writings:

  • Presenter, "Mediating Real Estate Cases," San Diego County Bar Association: Almost every real estate dispute involves some form of mediation. This legal education covered mediation of real estate disputes including, among other things, opening session and advocate remarks, caucus conversations with each side, mediation strategies and nailing down a settlement, Presenter, 2016
  • Presenter, "Arbitrating Real Estate Cases," San Diego County Bar Association.  Legal presentation discussing:  What kind of preparation needs to be completed before arbitration, including an arbitration brief and evidence; Issues typically raised at arbitration; Advocates’ strategies; What arbitrators look for and more, 2016
  • Author, "Going to the Source:  Minimize your liability by providing attributions," Commercial Investment Real Estate Magazine (May/June 2015).  This article discusses how real estate agents, brokers and sellers can minimize their liability for the unintentional disclosure of inaccurate information by attributing the source of the information, 2015
  • Presenter, "Deconstructing Commercial Leases," San Diego County Bar Association:  A legal education seminar analyzing commercial leasing issues from the start of a transaction through the completion of the transaction and beyond into litigation, 2015
  • Presenter, "Having Real Estate Contracts Interpreted in Your Client's Favor," San Francisco Bar Association:  A legal education seminar covering key rules of construction of real estate and legal documents, including lease agreements, grant deeds, agreements with public entities, deeds of trust, and other real estate contracts, 2015
  • Presenter, "Commercial Real Estate Brokerage Standard of Care," San Diego and San Francisco County Bar Associations:  A legal education seminar which looked at the duties and obligations of commercial real estate agents and brokers who, unlike their residential counterparts, are not presently bound by strict statutory requirements, 2014
  • Moderator, "Private Investigation and the Legal Community," San Francisco Bar Association, A legal education seminar covering private investigator techniques to assist lawyers in the prosecution and defense of their actions as well as the identification of critical persons and assets in litigation, 2013
  • Presenter, "The Rogue Agent:  Agency Issues in Real Estate," San Francisco and San Mateo County Bar Associations, A legal seminar covering the existence and scope of agency relationships, including a discussion of agency agreements, ostensible agency, ratification, negligent supervision and the legal relationship between agents and principals, 2013
  • Presenter, "50 Shades of Legal," Women's Council of Realtors, Presentation to realtors covering general duties of real estate agents and brokers, traditional and novel legal issues arising in real estate transactions and "rogue" agent issues, 2013
  • Presenter, "How Expert Witnesses can Improve their Relationship with Busy Trial Attorneys," Forensic Expert Witness Association, A presentation to expert witnesses covering of all aspects of the relationship between experts and counsel, including the role of an expert in litigation and at trial as well as key issues for experts to be aware of in discovery and at trial, 2012
  • Presenter, "Best Use of Expert Witnesses in Real Estate Cases," San Francisco Bar Association and San Mateo County Bar Association, A legal education seminar covering the best and most effective uses of experts in litigation and at trial, including a detailed discussed of expert depositions and approaches to direct examination and cross-examination at trial, 2012
  • Author, "Recovering Lost Profits In Real Estate Transactions," Real Estate Quarterly Supplement to The Daily Journal 2011.  Summary:  The article discusses the recent Greenwich decision which has opened the door to the recovery of lost profits, but just slightly. As explained in the article, "Aggrieved investors should seek lost profits, but need to be mindful that courts are still skeptical of lost profits damages and will not allow them where even remotely uncertain or speculative.", 2011
  • Presenter, "Bringing Down the House: Assessing Damages in Real Estate Cases," San Francisco Bar Association, A legal education seminar covering pre-closing remedies, post-closing remedies, equitable remedies and broker commissions, 2011
  • Author, "Should Equitable Indemnity Apply Against Negligent Misrepresentation Claims?" The Daily Journal 2010.  Summary:  "The law is clear that a party is entitled to seek equitable indemnity against negligence claims alleged against it. Similarly, the law is clear that a party is not entitled to indemnity against fraud, intentional torts and other torts for which the application of indemnity would violate public policy. But the law is much less clear as to a party’s right to indemnity for negligent misrepresentation, a cause of action which straddles the line between negligence and fraud. Although the issue arises frequently between joint tortfeasors, the appellate courts have yet to address it. In their silence, trial courts have been all over the map...", 2010
  • Author, "The Nonrefundable Deposit-Not!"  California Lawyer Magazine 2010.  Summary:  "In many transactions, the seller requires that the buyer pay earnest money in the form of a non-refundable deposit. The deposit is one way the buyer can communicate to the seller that he or she really means business. Indeed, such deposits have for years been commonplace. Recently, however, the court of appeal ruled that a non-refundable deposit is in reality a form of liquidated damages and voided the practice despite the clear contractual documents that called for it. (Kuish v. Smith, 181 Cal.App.4th 1419 (2010).) Whether the Kuish decision is a good thing or a bad thing is not the point; the fact is, real estate lawyers and their clients must deal with a new reality when proceeding to escrow...", 2010
  • Presenter, “When Real Estate Deals Go Bad,” San Mateo County Bar Association, A legal education seminar covering issues arsing in real estate transactions, including preventative measures aimed at avoiding problems commonly encountered in real estate transactions, obligations and duties of parties in real estate transactions, and problems occurring after the close of escrow, 2010
  • Presenter, "Direct and Cross-Examination For Civil Litigators," National Business Institute, A legal education seminar covering the skillful and effective use of testimony and evidence in the courtroom which provided attendees with the skills necessary to elicit the testimony needed in order to build a strong case and to put themselves in the best position to win, 2009
  • Author, “Going to the Source: Minimize your liability by providing attributions,” Commercial Investment Real Estate Magazine (2015)
  • Presenter, “Having Real Estate Contracts Interpreted in Your Client’s Favor: Critical Rules of Construction Every Real Estate Transactional and Litigation Attorney Should Know,” San Francisco Bar Association (2015)

Verdicts and Settlements:

  • Vaughns v. Malm et al. Represented commercial real estate brokerage company, its designated broker and its agent in a dispute in which plaintiff real estate investors alleged breach of fiduciary duties and conduct falling below the standard of care. After a two week trial, our clients received a complete defense verdict, absolving them of any wrongdoing, 2016
  • Excelsior Academy v. San Diego Unified School District. Represented school serving special needs students against lessor attempting to terminate school’s lease. After a bench trial, the judge rejected lessor’s efforts to terminate the lease early and, instead, awarded the school an extension of its lease, 2015
  • In re Tamir.  Represented owner of a business in partnership with one of the other partners over the ownership of the business.  After a two week trial, client-owner prevailed in ownership dispute and awarded all interests and rights sought, 2012
  • Blue Barn Assocs. v. Honey Baked Hams, Inc.  Represented commercial landowner in a quiet title action, involving complex title and ground lease issues.  After a two week trial, the party contesting ownership agreed to relinquish all rights, title and interest in the property to our client landowner and dismissed all of its claims against our client, 2010
  • United States of America et al v. Maxxam Inc. et al.  As part of a trial team, represented two California state agency employees in a whistleblower action against a national timber company for allegedly defrauding the government in connection with the purchase and sale of the Headwaters Forest. A favorable settlement was reached after parties had completed two weeks of a scheduled three week jury trial, 2009
  • The Lao Trust v. S&P Investments et al.  Represented commercial real estate brokerage and its agents in an arbitrated matter in which plaintiff buyer sought damages for alleged nondisclosure of material facts and clients sought recovery of their commission.  After arbitration, plaintiffs' claims were rejected and clients were awarded their commission, 2006
  • Olen Residential Realty Corp. v. First Premier Drywall and Paint, et al.  As part of a trial team, represented real estate investor in action against contractors and design professionals to recover damages for defects in the construction and design of various large-scale apartment complexes.  After extensive litigation and trial, sought and obtained $115 million construction defect verdict, 2004
  • Deputy District Attorney Experience, Marin County District Attorney's Office.  Prosecuted over 25 cases to verdict, ranging from violent crime to environmental protection.  Maintained a perfect trial record in the prosecution of felony cases, 2000-2003

Representative Clients:

  • Real estate clients include brokers, agents, investors, developers and contractors. Typical business clients include partners of limited and general partnerships as well as corporate officers and directors.

Educational Background:

  • UCLA, B.A., Major: Philosophy, Honors: Departmental Scholar, Honors: Dean’s Honor List, 1995

Industry Groups

  • Business
  • Construction
  • Real Estate
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Office Location for Sean E. Ponist

100 Pine Street
Suite 1250
San Francisco, CA 94111

Phone: 415-798-2222


Sean E. Ponist:

Last Updated: 7/12/2018

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