John E. Sebastian

Senior Partner | Chicago

(312) 219-6900

John Sebastian joined Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald 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 defective design, delay and disruption, labor productivity analyses, 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 this 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.

  • Illinois Super Lawyers – 2012 – 2020
  • Martindale-Hubbell rated – Ethics and Legal Ability
  • Leading Lawyers Network – 2013 – 2020
    • Peer-selected as a Leading Lawyer in Construction Law
  • American Bar Association
    • Vice-Chair of the Fidelity and Surety Law Committee of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS)
  • Chicago Building Congress (CBC)
  • Construction Financial Management Association (CFMA)
  • National Bond Claims Association (NBCA)
  • Society of Illinois Construction Attorneys (SOICA)
  • Editor-at-Large: ABA Fidelity and Surety Law Committee Newsletter, 2016-2020.
  • Co-Speaker: “What to Say, What Not to Say: An Overview of Tips Surety Underwriters Should Consider While Communicating” (July 2020)
  • Co-Speaker: “What to Say, What Not to Say: An Overview of Tips Surety Underwriters Should Consider While Communicating” (July 2020)
  • Co-Speaker: “Surety Financing: Learning from Our Wins and Losses and Cost-to-Complete Analysis & Closing Out Projects” Prepared for “Webinar Series”, June 2020.
  • Co-Speaker: “Federal Construction Contracts vs. COVID-19: An “Excused” Delay?”, April 2020.
  • Co-Speaker: “Tips for A Surety Dealing with COVID-19”, Surety Professionals Webinar, April 2020.
  • Co-Chair and Presenter: Midwest Surety & Construction Claims Conference, 2013-2019.
  • Co-Speaker: “Tips for the Surety in Dealing with Bankruptcy”, Midwest Surety & Construction Claims Conference 2019, July 2019.
  • Co-Speaker: “Construction Documentation: Successfully Managing Risk and Preserving Claims,” CFMA Annual Conference & Exhibition, June 2019.
  • Co-Speaker: “Blockchains: What Are They and How Will They Affect the Construction, Surety, and Legal Industries.” Westfield Insurance Group, March 2019.
  • Co-Author: Strict Interpretation of Contract, Watt Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald’s Fifty State Survey of Key Issues Related to Construction & Engineering Contracts, 2015-2018.
  • Speaker: “The Buy America[n],” Society of Illinois Construction Attorneys, November 2018.
  • Speaker: “Construction Acceleration Claims and Defenses: Strategies for Owners, General Contractors, and Subs,” Strafford Publishing, November 2018.
  • Speaker: “Construction Documentation: Successfully Managing Risk and Preserving Claims,” CFMA Midwest Regional Conference, September 2017.
  • 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).
  • Speaker: Overview of the Illinois Public Construction Bond Act, and Mechanics Liens on Public and Private Projects, November 2014.
  • Speaker: Tips on Financing a Contractor, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, February 2014.
  • Speaker: Deposition Preparation, Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America, November 2013.
  • Co-Author: Chapter 15, Illinois, “The Underwriters Quick Reference Guide Handbook to Surety Risk,” American Bar Association, The Fidelity and Surety Law Committee 2013 Mid-Winter Program, January 2013.
  • Co-Speaker: “Checklist for the Witness: Preparation, More Preparation, and Testifying in a Deposition”, 2013.
  • Chair and Presenter: 1st Annual Commercial Bond Claims Seminar for Liberty Mutual’s Commercial Claims Group, 2013.
  • 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.
  • Speaker: “Overview of Small Business Administration (“SBA”) Programs from a Surety Perspective and Tips on Dealing with Accounts That Associate with SBA Contractors,” Cincinnati Insurance Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 2012.
  • 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,” National Bond Claims Seminar, October 2011.
  • Associate Editor: Construction Lawyer Quarterly publication of the Construction Forum Subcommittee of the ABA, 2004 and 2011.
  • Co-Editor: Law of Payment Bonds, Second Edition for the American Bar Association (ABA). (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, March 2010.
  • Speaker: “Tips on Handling a Contractor Bankruptcy,” Travelers, 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, October 2009.
  • Speaker: “Tips in Handling a Contractor Bankruptcy,” RLI Insurance Company, August 2009.
  • Speaker: “Tips in Handling a Contractor Bankruptcy,” The Cincinnati Insurance Companies, June 2009.
  • Speaker: “Troubled Developments in a Troubled Economy,” American Public Works Association, 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, March 2009.
  • Speaker: “Mechanics Liens,” and “The Illinois Bond Act,” Lorman Education Services Seminar “Construction Lien Law in Illinois,” September 2008.
  • Speaker: “Recent Developments with Respect to the AIA A312-1984 Payment Bond,” Cincinnati Insurance Company Annual Meeting, August 2008.
  • Speaker: “Litigating the Manifest Intent Issue at Summary Judgment,” American Bar Association Fidelity & Surety Committee Mid-Winter Meeting, January 2008.
  • Speaker: “Onerous Bond Forms and Tips in Dealing with Them,” Surety Association of Illinois Quarterly Meeting, September 2007.
  • Speaker: “Onerous Bond Forms and Tips for Dealing with Them,” Cincinnati Insurance Company Annual Meeting, 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, 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, January 2007.
  • Speaker: “Escaping a No Damages for Delay Clause to Pursue a Principal’s Affirmative Claim,” National Bond Claims Association Annual Meeting, 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.
  • Co-Author: Chapter 10, Surety Bonds, “Construction Law in Illinois,” Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education, 1997 and 1999.

Areas of Practice

  • Surety
  • Construction
  • Commercial Litigation

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 Central District of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court for the Northern 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 Eastern District of Missouri
  • U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska
  • U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit