John Zavitsanos

Top rated business litigation attorney in Houston, Texas

Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing or AZA
John Zavitsanos
Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing or AZA

Practice Areas: Business litigation, General litigation

Licensed in Texas since: 1987

Education: The University of Michigan Law School

Languages Spoken: English, Greek

Selected to Super Lawyers: 2003 - 2023

Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing or AZA

1221 McKinney Street
Suite 2500
Houston, TX 77010 Phone: 713-655-1101 Email: John Zavitsanos Visit website


John Zavitsanos is a nationally regarded trial lawyer who loves trying cases and loves winning. He has achieved success for a multitude of clients – both defendants and plaintiffs, from big energy companies to lone whistleblowers battling the odds.

He has tried nearly 100 cases to verdict in litigation that runs the gamut: financial services, oil and gas, construction, complex commercial disputes, director and officer liability, noncompete and trade secret disputes, and catastrophic personal injury.

Using his own cutting-edge, courtroom research, he knows what works with juries. And his willingness – delight, actually – at trying a case with confidence has impressed numerous heavyweight clients. As one happy customer put it, “I find that many large law firms are willing to capitulate too quickly and pressure me to settle too soon.” He said he knows that Mr. Zavitsanos is “serious about going to trial.”

Mr. Zavitsanos’ considerable talents have been recognized by every possible legal rating service. For 13 consecutive years, he’s been listed by Best Lawyers in America. He’s recognized for his General Commercial Litigation work in Texas by the highly respected Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, published by London-based Chambers and Partners.

Mr. Zavitsanos' skills are exemplified by the recognitions he received in 2021. These include: two of the Top 100 Verdicts in 2021, The Trailblazer Award by Law360 (only one person per state received this recognition), and Law360's Titans of the Plaintiffs Bar (only 12 people nationally received this recognition. John is the only lawyer in Texas to receive this recognition in 2021).

He has achieved the highest possible peer rating, AV Preeminent, by Martindale-Hubble, the premier legal directory, for his Business Litigation practice. He’s been named one of the top 100 Lawyers on the annual Texas Super Lawyers list for the past seven years. And he is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by both the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and the National Board of Trial Advocacy, an accomplishment held by less than 1 percent of all practicing lawyers in the state of Texas.

Mr. Zavitsanos co-founded the firm with Joe Ahmad in 1993 in a creaky building with a leaky roof. From that beginning, they built a firm that in 2014 was dubbed a “Texas Powerhouse” by the national online legal publication Law360.

In growing his firm to almost 60 lawyers, Mr. Zavitsanos has hired carefully. Many on his hardworking team are self-made people who had to work their way through school – backgrounds similar to his own. Nearly all AZA lawyers have been actively involved in trial.

Early on, it was clear that Mr. Zavitsanos would be a trailblazer. In 1998, he tried to verdict what is believed to be the first same sex harassment case, recovering more than $1 million in damages and fees for his client. In 2002, he won a complex business tort involving 1,000 exhibits that he managed to turn into a “paperless” trial by using the latest technology.

Since then, the firm has stacked up increasingly bigger wins in disputes involving hundreds of millions or billions of dollars. A particularly tangible example of the firm’s success came in 2009 when the general counsel of National Oilwell Varco, a company that had lost a trial to Zavitsanos a year earlier, hired the firm. “It was the first and only time I’ve ever hired a law firm that had beaten us in court,” the GC said.

As another major energy client summed it up, Mr. Zavitsanos brings “a plaintiff’s perspective in every case - including defense cases” and is “never afraid to take a case to trial.”

First Admitted: 1987, Texas

Professional Webpage:

Bar/Professional Activity:
  • Professional Affiliations: 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 U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Admitted to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, 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.
Scholarly Lectures/Writings:
Educational Background:
  • University of Michigan Law School, J.D., 1987
Special Licenses/Certifications:
  • Board Certified, Civil Trial Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization, 1997
  • Recertified for Civil Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, 2020
Representative Clients:
  • Mr. Zavitsanos represented Plains All American Pipeline in a pipeline dispute with BP Oil Pipeline Company in which BP had obtained summary judgment against Plains before AZA got involved in the case.  With colleague Lizzie Fletcher, Mr. Zavitsanos petitioned for reconsideration, got the summary judgment reversed, and won summary judgment for Plains, obtaining substantial attorneys’ fees for Plains for defending the lawsuit.  , 2013
  • Mr. Zavitsanos and partner Elizabeth Fletcher won a take-nothing verdict from a Harris County jury for a Houston businesswoman, defeating multimillion-dollar claims that she had received money from allegedly fraudulent commercial property sales., 2014
  • Mr. Zavitsanos represented Plains All American Pipeline in a pipeline dispute with BP Oil Pipeline Company in which BP had obtained summary judgment against Plains before AZA got involved in the case.  With colleague Lizzie Fletcher, Mr. Zavitsanos petitioned for reconsideration, got the summary judgment reversed, and won summary judgment for Plains, obtaining substantial attorneys’ fees for Plains for defending the lawsuit.  , 2013
  • Professional Janitorial Services of Houston hired Mr. Zavitsanos to end a nearly 10-year-old case against a union that lied about the cleaning business and caused the company to lose business. He stopped the stalling, got it to trial within a month and obtained a judgment of almost $8 million. This was the first case in the country to successfully go through a full trial that called into question the heavy-handed tactics of SEIU, one of the three largest unions in the U.S., 2016
  • Secured a take-nothing verdict for National Oilwell Varco in a $120 million race discrimination claim by eight former employees. Mr. Zavitsanos was hired after his client offered a substantial settlement that was refused. The plaintiffs were represented by high-profile civil rights lawyer Angela M. Alioto of San Francisco’s Law Offices of former Mayor Joseph L. Alioto and Angela Alioto., 2015
  • Represented a client sued by the trustee for a bankrupt company who decided to drop his lawsuit against AZA’s client after watching his expert witness cross-examined by Mr. Zavitsanos. The legal dispute that never got to the jury even though it was three weeks into the trial involved a series of shopping centers and other properties worth more than $30 million and the question was whether company assets were divested improperly by AZA’s client., 2016
  • After a six-week trial, won a $41.6 million jury verdict against certain underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, that included $27.3 million in punitive damages and $10.9 million for bad faith on behalf of client Prime Natural Resources. The claim alleged breach of contract and bad faith insurance involving damage to an offshore oil well during Hurricane Rita. The case was one of the top 100 2017 verdicts in the nation according to the National Law Journal., 2017
  • Successfully represented National Oilwell Varco (NOV) in an Oklahoma jury trial over a tragic 2018 oil rig explosion that killed five workers. The devastating accident was the industry’s deadliest since the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The lawsuit was brought by two of the surviving families. After three weeks of grisly testimony, the jury found NOV only a small percentage responsible and found the company should pay far less than even the NOV pre-trial settlement offer. The jury awarded only one percent of the $200 million the plaintiffs’ lawyers asked from the jury. The jury found other companies 90 percent responsible for the accident., 2020
  • Successfully represented Dr. Steven Hotze, part owner of a large energy-sector family business, in a complicated dispute involving allegations of fraud, securities violations, and breaching of fiduciary duties with potential costs of up to $30 million. After a five-week trial and a 65-page jury charge with 45 questions, the jury came back with a total defense victory for Mr. Zavitsanos’ client. The case was named among the largest Texas courtroom wins in 2018 by the Houston Chronicle in “The Biggest Courtroom Wins of 2018″ (subscription required) and Texas Lawbook in  “The Top Texas Litigation Stories of 2018” (subscription required)., 2018
  • Summary of cases since 1988: 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).
  • Represented along with firm partner Todd Mensing 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.  , 2011
  • Enterprise Products Operating LLC hired Mr. Zavitsanos in a $45 million pipeline case when it became clear this case was going to trial. He and AZA replaced a BigLaw firm. He immediately shifted the pre-trial strategy to focus on destroying the defenses arising out of the failed construction of underground pipelines designed to carry gasoline and other products. AZA will take this case to trial and expects to force defendants to compensate its client for repair costs.   *In 2013, Mr. Zavitsanos prevailed for a client with $115 million at stake in an energy sector lawsuit filed by more than 100 oil and gas producers. He represented Plains All American Pipeline after SemCrude, a major midstream oil and gas company, filed for bankruptcy in 2008 without paying the oil and gas producers who sold to SemCrude in the preceding months. AZA participated in over 225 depositions in the case and convinced a key opponent to drop out just before a summary judgment hearing., 2014
  • 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.  , 2011
  • 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.   , 2012
  • 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., 2008
  • Ranked Tier 1 in Houston metro area for Commercial Litigation, Best Law Firms, Best Lawyers in America - US News & World Report, 2020
  • Recognized as Litigation Star since 2016, Local Litigation Star, Benchmark Litigation, 2020
  • Recognized since 2006 in Commercial Litigation by Best Lawyers in America, Recognized in Commercial Litigation, Best Lawyers in America, 2020
  • Who’s Who in American Law; Leader in Texas General Commercial Litigation in the 2014-2017 editions of Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business; Million Dollar Advocate Forum; The Best Lawyers in America, 2006-2018; Benchmark Litigation, Litigation Star 2017-2018, the definitive guide to America’s leading litigation firms and attorneys; Top 100 Regional Business Litigators, 2007-2016; 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
Industry Groups:
  • Energy
  • Financial Services
  • Health Care
  • Oil & Gas

Office location for John Zavitsanos

1221 McKinney Street
Suite 2500
Houston, TX 77010

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