John E. Sebastian

John Sebastian joined Watt Tieder in 2013 as the managing partner of the firm’s new Chicago office. He focuses his practice primarily in the areas of surety bond, construction and commercial litigation. With an undergraduate degree in Construction Engineering Technology, and a wealth of practice experience in-house and in private practice, he is well equipped to both counsel and protect his construction industry clients in their challenging legal matters.

John has represented sureties, contractors, architects, engineers, design/builders, and trade contractors in payment disputes, design defect claims, delay claims, defective work claims, and contractor, subcontractor and owner bankruptcies. His construction law matters include design defect claims, delay and disruption claims, labor productivity, contract interpretation, differing site conditions, and surety bond and mechanics lien claims. John has also handled complex commercial litigation, including fidelity bond claims, common law fraud, breach of contract matters and preserving and prosecuting creditors’ claims in bankruptcy.

John counsels and advises clients on contract preparation, administration and termination, mechanics liens, and surety claims and defenses, as well as contractor, subcontractor and owner bankruptcies. He has extensive experience in claim preparation, prosecution and dispute resolution on federal, state, municipal and private contracts. John has significant litigation experience before both federal and state courts as well as the American Arbitration Association on a wide variety of suretyship, construction law, commercial litigation and bankruptcy issues.

John’s background and experience in the construction industry is a unique asset he brings to his practice. His knowledge and understanding of his clients’ business needs and challenges in the construction arena enable him to handle complex matters efficiently from a business perspective.

  1. General Information

    Education

    • Northern Illinois University College of Law, J.D., 1995
    • Purdue University, B.S., 1990, Construction Engineering Technology

    Bar Admissions

    • Illinois
    • Michigan
    • Ohio
    • Wisconsin

    Court Admissions

    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
    • U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois
    • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
    • U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
    • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan
    • U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
    • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Illinois
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of Illinois
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Indiana
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Missouri
    • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
  2. Honors
    • Illinois Super Lawyers – 2012 – 2014
    • Martindale-Hubbell rated – Ethics and Legal Ability
  3. Memberships & Affiliations
    • Society of Illinois Construction Attorneys (SOICA)
    • Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA)
    • American Bar Association
      • Vice-Chair of the Fidelity and Surety Law Committee of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS)
    • Leading Lawyers Network
      • Peer-selected as a Leading Lawyer in Construction Law
    • Northern Illinois Home Builders Association (NIHBA)
  4. Publications and Presentations
    • Co-Author:  “Developer Bonds:  Contractors Beware” 2015.
    • Co-Author:  Illinois Construction Law, HLK Global Communications, Inc. (2015).
    • Co-Author:  Bond Default Manual, chapter 8:  “The Federal Government and the Performing Surety.”  (4th Edition, 2014).
    • Co-Author:  Chapter 15, Illinois, “The Underwriters Quick Reference Guide Handbook to Surety Risk,” American Bar Association, The Fidelity and Surety Law Committee 2013’s Mid-Winter Program. (January 2013).
    • Associate Editor: Construction Lawyer Quarterly publication of the Construction Forum Subcommittee of the ABA, 2004 – 2011.
    • Author and Speaker: “Statutory or Private Bond – What Law Governs the Bond?” and “Stop Payment/Freeze Funds/Letters of Direction – What if the Obligee Ignores the Direction?” 2013.
    • Co-Author: Chapter 10, Surety Bonds, “Construction Law in Illinois,” Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education. 1997 and 1999.
    • Co-Editor: “Law of Payment Bonds, Second Edition,” American Bar Association (ABA), 2011.
    • Co-Speaker: “Checklist for the Witness: Preparation, More Preparation, and Testifying in a Deposition” . 2013.
    • Chair and presenter: 1 st Annual Commercial Bond Claims Seminar for Liberty Mutual’s Commercial Claims Group. 2013.
    • Co-chair and presenter: 1 st Annual Midwest Surety and Construction Claims Association. 2013.
    • Editor-at-Large: ABA Fidelity and Surety Law Committee newsletter.
    • Speaker: Deposition Preparation, Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America. November 2013.
    • Speaker: Tips on Financing A Contractor, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, February 2014.
    • Speaker: “The Construction Project from Womb to Tomb (Then Back to Life),” Illinois State Bar Association, Chicago, Illinois, April 2012.
    • Speaker: “Insurance Claims,” ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, 2012 FSLC Midwinter Meeting, New York, New York, January 2012.
    • Speaker: “The Art of Effective Communication Between the Surety and Bond Claimants,” 2011 National Bond Claims Seminar, Pinehurst, North Carolina, October 2011.
    • Speaker: “A Primer on Statutory Exemptions that Protect a Debtor and What to Consider when an Indemnitor’s Assets are Held in Trust,” The Cincinnati Insurance Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, November 2010.
    • Speaker: “When Insurance Law Meets Commercial Law – Is an Equitable Subrogation Claim Subject to the Economic Loss Doctrine?” American Bar Association Insurance Coverage Litigation Section CLE seminar, Tucson, Arizona, March 2010.
    • Speaker: “Tips on Handling a Contractor Bankruptcy,” Travelers, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 2009.
    • Speaker: “Penal Sum Increases by Change Orders, Cardinal Change Doctrine, Sureties and Native American Sovereigns, Remedies for Contractors when the Money Stops,” The Cincinnati Insurance Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 2009.
    • Speaker: “Tips in Handling a Contractor Bankruptcy,” RLI Insurance Company, Chicago, Illinois, August 2009.
    • Speaker: “Tips in Handling a Contractor Bankruptcy,” The Cincinnati Insurance Companies, Cincinnati, Ohio, June 2009.
    • Speaker: “Troubled Developments in a Troubled Economy,” American Public Works Association, Schaumburg, Illinois, May 2009.
    • Speaker: “The Notice and Suit Limitation Requirements of the Illinois Public Construction Bond Act, Mechanics Liens on Private Projects,” Structural Engineers Association of Illinois workshop, Chicago, Illinois, March 2009.
    • Speaker: “Mechanics Liens,” and “The Illinois Bond Act,” Lorman Education Services seminar “Construction Lien Law in Illinois,” Orland Park, Illinois, September 2008.
    • Speaker: “Recent Developments With Respect to the AIA A312-1984 Payment Bond,” Cincinnati Insurance Company annual meeting, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 2008.
    • Speaker: “Litigating the Manifest Intent Issue at Summary Judgment,” American Bar Association Fidelity & Surety Committee Mid-Winter meeting, New York, New York, January 2008.
    • Speaker: “Onerous Bond Forms and Tips in Dealing with Them,” Surety Association of Illinois Quarterly Meeting, Lombard, Illinois, September 2007.
    • Speaker: “Onerous Bond Forms and Tips for Dealing with Them,” Cincinnati Insurance Company Annual Meeting, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 2007.
    • Speaker: “Understanding Surety Bonds and Indemnity Obligations,” paper and presentation, Risk Insurance Management Society Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, May 2007.
    • Speaker: “Overview of the Illinois Mechanics Lien and Bond Acts,” Fox Valley Associated General Contractors of America, Geneva, Illinois, February 2007.
    • Speaker: “Enforcement of the Collateral Security Provisions in the General Indemnity Agreement: Tactics and Procedures,” American Bar Association Annual Midwinter Meeting of the Construction Forum/Fidelity and Surety Subcommittee, San Francisco, California, January 2007.
    • Speaker: “Escaping a No Damages for Delay Clause to Pursue a Principal’s Affirmative Claim,” National Bond Claims Association Annual Meeting, Pinehurst, North Carolina, September 2006.
    • Contributing Author: North Dakota section, “Payment Bond Manual, Third Edition,” American Bar Association, April 2006.
    • Speaker: “How to Conduct an Adversary Proceeding to Pursue a Contractor’s Affirmative Claim,” American Bar Association Annual Midwinter Meeting of the Construction Forum/Surety and Fidelity Subcommittee, January 2003.
    • Speaker: “The Illinois Payment Bond and Mechanics Lien Act,” Chicago Surety Claims Association meeting, 2002.
    • Speaker: “A Primer on Assessing a Principal’s Affirmative Claim,” Chicago Surety Claims Association meeting, 2000.