20 Highlights from AZA’s First 20 Years of Complex Commercial Litigation


1993AZA Begins as Ahmad & Zavitsanos – Young lawyers Joe Ahmad and John Zavitsanos joined forces after attending the University of Michigan Law School together and starting their careers at large Houston law firms. Their partnership grew to become a complex commercial litigation firm that represents clients in some of the country’s biggest commercial disputes and intellectual property cases. Clients that followed the partners to their new firm on day one included Mercedes Benz North America, developer Gerald Hines, and the American Automobile Association. Mr. Ahmad and Mr. Zavitsanos are named among the Top 100 lawyers in Texas year after year.

1993First Ahmad & Zavitsanos Courtroom Trials – The first month the firm opened, the partners tried a huge oil and gas case for the Royal Bank of Canada after parachuting in at the last minute, as AZA would be asked to do again and again in other cases. Also during its first year, the firm obtained a seven-figure recovery in the bank fraud case John G. Scaramozi v. VBFSB Holding Corp.

1995Two Partners Try 14 Jury Trials in a Single Year – AZA’s founding partners wanted their early opponents to know then what they know about the firm today: they were trial-ready and trial-willing. Trying commercial cases, personal injury and other civil matters, Mr. Ahmad and Mr. Zavitsanos stood before 14 juries in 1995 alone, winning a remarkable 13 of those cases.

1995Landmark Texas First Amendment Case – AZA took the lead in representing seven police officers who were terminated because of political expression. The nationally prominent case is considered one of the leading decisions in free speech for police officers, Brady v. Fort Bend County, 145 F.3d 691 (5th Cir. 1998).

1998First U.S. Same-Sex Sexual Harassment Case Tried to Verdict – AZA tried what is believed to be the first same-sex sexual harassment case in U.S. history to reach a verdict. The client recovered more than $1 million in damages and fees in this landmark lawsuit, Mota v. University of Houston Health Science Center, 261 F.3d 512 (5th Cir. 2001).

2000Demetrios Anaipakos Joins Newly Named AZA – Demetrios Anaipakos joins the firm as a name partner after previously working at Vinson & Elkins. His highlights at AZA include successfully handling significant patent cases and complex commercial claims, including obtaining a seven-figure settlement on the first day of trial for an aircraft sales and leasing business in a high-stakes dispute against a powerful Saudi company. He also won $18 million for the world’s largest manufacturer of egg rolls and Chinese food in a contentious dispute with a competitor. And he represented Enron whistle-blower Margaret Ceconi, who found herself in the national spotlight while appearing before the FBI, SEC, Department of Justice, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and U.S. Congressional committees, in addition to other state and federal agencies.

2001Todd Mensing Joins AZA – Todd Mensing joins AZA from Vinson & Elkins. Over the years, he has handled numerous large commercial cases and high-stakes construction cases for a variety of firm clients. Mr. Mensing resolved a case for an international gas storage and pipeline company for less than one percent of what was asked for in a $100 million environmental contamination dispute with the State of New Jersey and a group of international energy companies. He helped overturn an administrative ruling for an energy company in a $50 million breach of contract lawsuit that had been decided against his client and instead settled favorably. And he defended a Houston petrochemical inspection company in a $10 million trademark infringement jury trial that ended in not only a dismissal of the claim, but also the jury’s invalidation of the claimed trademark.

2002Amir Alavi Joins AZA – A former general counsel of a publicly-traded company, Amir Alavi joined AZA. He represented plaintiff Judy Collins in one of the first federal lawsuits filed under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The court protected AZA’s whistle-blower client in this nationally watched case, Collins v. Beazer Homes USA, Inc., 334 F. Supp @d 1365 (N.D. Ga. 2004). He successfully represented an investor in the Parkcentral Global hedge fund, which lost more than $2.5 billion in conjunction with a related hedge fund. Mr. Alavi secured a verdict granting his client access to the fund’s investor list and allowing investor investigations and consolidation. The Delaware Supreme Court affirmed this milestone ruling, Brown Investment Management, L.P. v. Parkcentral Global, L.P.

2002Work for Oil Field Services Whistle-Blower Leads to Record SEC, DOJ Settlement – AZA successfully represented Alan Ferguson in a whistle-blower lawsuit that earned national attention after exposing corrupt business practices at the prominent oil field services company Baker Hughes. As a result, the company reached a record $44.1 million settlement with the Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Alan Ferguson v. Baker Hughes, Inc., et al.

2006AZA Wins Largest Harris County Sanction in Energy Company Case – AZA won nearly $140,000 in sanctions against an energy company that filed a groundless “strike” suit against the firm’s client. After securing the dismissal of the company’s fraud claims against a former officer, AZA recovered what was believed to be the largest sanctions award ever assessed in an employment case at the time.

2008FERC Decision Overruled, Saving AZA’s Client Millions – Hired by a former courtroom adversary, AZA represented Columbia Gulf Transmission Co. in a $50 million breach of contract lawsuit involving the controlling interest in one of the largest offshore natural gas pipeline systems in North America. AZA helped overturn a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) administrative finding before reaching a favorable settlement for our client.

2008 $40 Million Victory in Bet-The-Company Case – AZA was retained three months prior to trial to defend a client who was losing millions of dollars under the terms of a court injunction that was levied before the firm got involved. AZA used writs of mandamus to get the injunction reversed before winning a jury verdict that earned media attention in The National Law Journal and more than 25 additional newspapers around the world. Since the trial, the company that filed the suit against our client has hired AZA in other cases.

2009Victory in Landmark Airline Industry Case – AZA represented five Continental Airlines pilots who resigned or were fired after they divorced and remarried their former spouses. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit sided with the pilots over their early pension benefit payouts and the legality of their divorces. The case was closely watched by pension plan administrators, and earned national and international press coverage, Brown v. Continental Airlines, Inc., 647 F. 3d 221 (5th Circuit, 2011)

2010AZA Named “Awesome Opponents” in National In-House Survey – AZA earned recognition alongside some of the country’s largest law firms in a national survey of corporate counsel who were asked to name the firms they don’t want to face in court. AZA was named an “awesome opponent” in the survey conducted by BTI Consulting Group, a leading provider of information on the legal industry. BTI surveyed 240 corporate counsels and named 32 firms that were frequently mentioned as formidable courtroom foes.

2011AZA Helps Versata Win $391 Million Patent Judgment – AZA was hired as co-counsel by Versata Software Inc. for a second patent infringement trial over pricing technology that targeted global software company SAP America Inc. and its German-based parent company. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the verdict, which resulted in a mammoth $391 million judgment, Versata Software Inc. v. SAP America Inc. and SAP AG, final judgment entered May 1, 2013.

2011AZA Wins Three of Texas’ Top VerdictsAZA was credited for winning the state’s second-largest intellectual property verdict ($391 million), the second-largest intentional tort verdict ($1.1 million), and the fourth-largest defense win during 2011. AZA successfully represented Versata Software Inc. in the intellectual property case only one week after winning the intentional tort verdict in a libel case filed on behalf of the son of the Fort Bend County chief deputy sheriff against a local newspaper. The same year, AZA scored the defense win in a trade secrets case for Mistras Group Inc. that included an award of $750,000 in attorneys’ fees.

2012AZA Defeats Multimillion-Dollar Trademark Lawsuit – AZA earned a federal judgment in Houston for firm client Mistras Group Inc., a prominent oil field services provider based in Princeton, N.J. The trademark lawsuit filed by a competing company sought $8 million in damages, but Mistras’ competitor was awarded nothing and was stripped of its alleged trademark based on a counterclaim filed by AZA.

2013AZA Helps Energy Giant Avoid $100 Million Damages Claim – AZA won a significant summary judgment for a Houston-based, publicly-traded energy company in a pollution case filed by a competitor that sought indemnification for cleanup costs. AZA was hired late in the lawsuit to replace prior counsel before turning around this important case for our client.

2013AZA Successfully Defends Pipeline Company against BP Lawsuit, Saving Client Millions – AZA represented publicly traded Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. in a pipeline dispute against BP Oil Pipeline Company that had ended with a summary judgment loss before AZA got involved in the case. In addition to getting the lawsuit dismissed in a Houston courtroom, saving tens of millions of dollars for its client, AZA scored a six-figure award of attorneys’ fees.

2013AZA Grows in Size and Prestige – AZA has won more than $1 billion for its clients in 20 years. The firm is now home to 28 lawyers, and still growing. AZA attracts top law school grads and laterals from “Big Law” firms, while competing with national firms for cases and legal talent. AZA was named in 2012 as one of the nation’s best commercial litigation firms in a survey conducted by the editors of U.S. News & World Report and The Best Lawyers in America. AZA also was named among the country’s top law firms for client service in a national survey of hundreds of corporate counsels conducted by BTI Consulting Group, a leading provider of information on the legal industry.


Send this to friend