John D. Zalewski is an Attorney, Director, Shareholder, and member of the firm’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution practice, and the firm’s insurance, information technology, and pension committees. His practice concentrations include commercial litigation, complex litigation, and real estate litigation. He represents and defends businesses, employers, nonprofit entities, directors and officers, professionals, developers, contractors, and design professionals. His practice emphasis includes title insurance actions, subrogation actions, and other civil disputes. He serves as lead attorney in federal and state courts, at both the trial and appellate levels, and before arbitration tribunals and in various mediation forums, and federal and state regulatory agencies. In all cases, he emphasizes zealous, creative, and conscientious advocacy to achieve successful resolutions.
Mr. Zalewski has practiced litigation in Hawai‘i for over 25 years. He has tried cases before juries and judges in the United States District Court for the District of Hawai‘i, and in all of Hawaii’s four state circuit courts. His background includes having practiced as a CPA for a “Big 8” public accounting firm, and having served as Deputy Attorney General for the State of Hawai‘i, where he prosecuted cases involving the commission of white collar crime.
Mr. Zalewski received a Doctor of Law degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1986, and a Bachelor of Science degree, Accounting major, from the University of Minnesota in 1980. He is admitted to practice before all courts in Hawai‘i and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is a licensed CPA (inactive). He is a member of the Hawai‘i State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, and the Defense Research Institute. He achieved the rank of Godan in the Japanese martial art of Kendo.
Some of Mr. Zalewski’s recent achievements include:
• Mr. Zalewski successfully defended client at trial in Hawaii State Circuit Court against an array of contract and tort claims brought by wealthy landowners, who sought monetary damages caused by diminution of property value due to view plane impairment and attorneys’ fees. In the Court’s ruling, filed October 31, 2014, the Court adopted many of Mr. Zalewski’s proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law, and agreed that claims were barred by statutes of limitation and the equitable doctrine of laches, that the purported damages were speculative, and that the doctrine of unclean hands barred recovery. No monetary damages were awarded. The Court further agreed that client was not responsible for any of the opposing parties’ attorneys’ fees, which approximated $1 million.
• Obtained full summary judgment in favour of client, a managing agent, by ruling filed October 10, 2014. Mr. Zalewski persuaded a Hawaii State Circuit Court to dismiss the entire civil action pursuant to the equitable doctrine of laches. The Court agreed that plaintiff’s delays in prosecuting its claims were unreasonable and resulted in severe and pervasive prejudice to client, which precluded a fair trial. Client was alleged to have caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages due to alleged improper billing practices for sub-metered utility charges over a 14-year period. All claims were dismissed with prejudice, including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
• As successor counsel, settled within six months litigation that had been pending for over two years in three forums (binding arbitration proceeding, state circuit court, state appellate court). Confidential settlement achieved in September 2014 after having prevailed on critical motions. Claimant, a physician, had separated from clients, a medical practice and its physician members, and sought the value of her membership interest. Mr. Zalewski persuaded the arbitrator to appoint a qualified independent appraiser, thereby avoiding costly discovery and a ‘battle of the experts’ on business valuation. Utilizing his CPA background, Mr. Zalewski helped persuade the appointed appraiser to discount the valuation predicated on post-separation, income tax implications. Confidential settlement on favourable terms followed shortly thereafter.
• Obtained dismissal and summary judgment on all claims brought under a multi-count complaint against a managing agent and property manager. Successfully argued for the rejection of all claims and legal theories brought under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Turner v. Hawaii First, Inc., 903 F.Supp.2d 1037 (D. Haw. 2012).
• After obtaining a full defense verdict in a multi-week bench trial in Hawai‘i state court, obtained affirmance on appeal by the Hawai‘i Intermediate Court of Appeals. Bowers v. AOAO Keauhou Kona Surf & Racquet Club, Inc., 126 Haw. 474, 272 P.3d 1341 (2012).
• Defended internet service provider in action filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai‘i. Plaintiff sought money damages for alleged property destruction of entertainment products. Over opposition, obtained a court-ordered transfer of venue from the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai‘i to the Eastern District of Wisconsin, the site of client’s principal place of business. WeR1 World Network v. CyberLynk Network, Inc., et al., 2011 WL 4412181 (D. Haw. 2011).
• Defended clients in action filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawai‘i. Plaintiff alleged discrimination based on race and made other claims. Obtained dismissal of all claims by dispositive motion, for failure to comply with rules of court and for lack of jurisdiction. Gill v. Waikiki Lanai, Inc., et al., 2011 WL 3648772 (D. Haw. 2011).
• Defended client in action filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Hawai‘i for alleged violations of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Obtained dismissal by U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and affirmance of dismissal by U.S. District Court. In re Moore (Moore v. Deutsche Bank National. Trust Co., et al.), 2011 WL 5593185 (D. Haw. 2011); 2012 WL 527637 (Bankr. Haw. 2012); 2012 WL 863835 (Bankr. Haw. 2012).
• Successfully pursued and obtained successful resolutions by pre-trial motions on behalf of entities and professionals in complex, multi-party commercial actions brought in U.S. District Court and Hawai‘i state court involving contract law, tort law, professional negligence, and business issues.
John Zalewski has earned the top Client Rating in Litigation and the top Peer Rating, AV Preeminent for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability, in his practice concentrations Commercial Litigation, Complex Litigation, and Civil Litigation, published in Martindale Hubbell and Lawyers.com. He is recognized by the internationally renowned lawyer referral directory Chambers and Partners, in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business for his litigation work. He is listed in A.M. Best’s Directory of Recommended Insurance Attorneys and in Benchmark Litigation, a publication that identifies the best commercial and financial litigators in the United States. He is recognized by Super Lawyers (2013-2017).
AREAS OF EMPHASIS:
Civil Litigation; Commercial Litigation; Complex Business Litigation; Insurance Defense; Professional Liability Defense; Director and Officer Defense
State of Hawai‘i,
U.S. District Court, District of Hawai‘i
U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
B.S., University of Minnesota, 1980
J.D., University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1986