Zela ''Zee'' G. Claiborne, Esq.

T: 415-982-5267
F: 415-982-5287
Engineering and Construction

Ms. Claiborne’s extensive career as a mediator and arbitrator includes work on numerous large-scale construction disputes involving both public and private projects. She has worked with owners and developers, design teams, general contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers, construction managers, sureties, and others involved in the development and construction process.

Ms. Claiborne’s experience includes the resolution of issues related to construction contracts, design errors, claims for cost overruns and delays, professional liability of architects and engineers, financing issues, soils issues, engineering and infrastructure issues, and construction defects.

Download: "What Counsel Say About Zela 'Zee' Claiborne, Esq."  

Representative Matters

  • Mediated resolution of tunneling dispute arising out of construction of a downtown subway system
  • Mediated dispute between shareholders resulting in successful buy-out of all shares of a prosperous construction company
  • ICC arbitration of dispute between Spanish and U.S. contractors arising out of construction of a 205.8 megawatt single-axis tracker solar power plant including 3.1 million photovoltaic solar modules at the US-Mexico border (tripartite)
  • Tripartite arbitration of a dispute arising out of a multi-million dollar contract for work related to construction of a deep foundation system for a $1.5 billion mixed-use development in Florida. Handled substantial discovery and pre-trial motion issues, leading to “eve of trial” settlement
  • Claim against contractor by developer of $12.5 million solar project in Arizona involving 45,000 ground mounted photovoltaic panels
  • Arbitrated $14 million claim involving construction of a large research facility
  • Arbitration of multi-million dollar infrastructure dispute brought by contractor relating to design, fabrication, and erection of structural steel racking and process piping arising out of oil refinery construction (tripartite, Chair)
  • Architectural firm’s claim against a group of doctors/investors for fees arising out of work on a hospital project in New Delhi
  • Chair of arbitration panel for claim by contractor against owner arising out of a fast-track contract for expansion of wafer fabrication plant in Silicon Valley
  • Claims by contractor arising out of construction of a solar electric system at an Air Force base (sole arbitrator)
  • Claim by contractor against structural steel fabricator and erector arising out of the construction of a college resource center
  • Infrastructure dispute brought by developer of an office building against a contractor and an architect for alleged defects in the curtain wall that allowed water intrusion. After a jury trial and an $8 million verdict, the case settled in mediation before appeals were filed.
  • Claim for payment by subcontractor arising out of work to furnish and install mechanical systems for construction of a rocket launch pad at Cape Canaveral
  • Claim of $14 million+ arising out of a major expansion to a manufacturing plant. The general contractor/design-builder claimed that recent county code requirements changed the structural design criteria in the contract and required an increase to the GMP. The owner denied the request for a change order and claimed that the cost overruns were due to the over design of the structure, an inaccurate bid, and various contractor inefficiencies.
  • Claims by design team for fees arising out of work on five schools, including both new construction and renovation of existing facilities. Counterclaims by school district for breach of contract and errors and omissions.
  • Claims by public owner for damages in excess of $1 million against design-builder of a wastewater treatment plant arising out of a landslide near the plant
  • Mediated $2 million claim by WBE contractor against the State of California Department of Transportation arising out of a highway pipeline rehabilitation project
  • Mediated a dispute between a public agency owner and electrical contractor regarding improvements to a hydroelectric power plant
  • Mediated settlement of claim for delays and defects against general contractor brought by Chinese developers of high-tech facility
  • Mediated a dispute between a university and an electrical contractor involving the construction of an ambulatory care facility
  • Mediated a dispute involving a general contractor and the developer over the construction of a large apartment complex
  • Mediated a multimillion dollar claim against a public entity involving a micro-tunneling operation to install storm water and sewer lines under a river and airport runway near Seattle
  • Mediated claim against a rapid transit agency for delays and cost overruns arising out of a project to extend the train system
  • Mediated claim by electrical contractor against national laboratory arising out of work performed on an underground duct bank and manhole system
  • Mediated claims by contractors over cost overruns for the construction of roads in a Nevada city
  • Mediated dispute arising out of a contract for seismic retrofit of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Mediated resolution of a $5 million+ claim by a school district and a general contractor against the project design team, including the architect, structural engineer, and MEP subconsultant
  • Mediated resolution of a multi-million dollar claim by a school district in the Midwest against the construction manager and architect for an $80 million project
  • Mediation involving construction of a $137 million medical center in Alaska
  • Sole arbitrator for claims of delay and cost overruns arising out of construction of a $330 million drug rehabilitation and prison facility
  • Mediation of $200 million in claims between a public owner and a joint venture contractor arising out of a tunneling project for the conveyance system of a wastewater treatment plant; work involved use of a slurry tunnel boring machine and claims included breach of contract, differing site conditions, and defective specifications

Honors, Memberships, and Professional Activities

  • Honors
    • Recognized as a leading practitioner, Alternative Dispute Resolution Category, Who's Who Legal: California, 2014-2016
    • Recognized as a "Best Lawyer, Alternative Dispute Resolution Category," Best Lawyers in America, 2008-2016
    • Recognized as a "Super Lawyer in Mediation and Arbitration," San Francisco Magazine, 2005-2016
  • Memberships
    • Member, Northern California International Arbitration Club (NCIAC)
    • Chair, ABA Arbitration Institute, Los Angeles, 2011, Philadelphia, 2012, and Washington, D.C., 2014
    • Member, Executive Advisory Committee of CPR: International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution
    • Member, National Panel of Distinguished Neutrals, CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution
    • Member, Mediation Panel, US District Court, Northern District
    • Member, American Bar Association, Forum on the Construction Industry (Governing Committee, 1996-1999), Litigation Section, and Dispute Resolution Section; Association of Business Trial Lawyers (ABTL Report, Editorial Board, 1991-2001); California Bar Association; San Francisco Bar Association; California Dispute Resolution Counsel
    • Former Member, American Arbitration Association Board of Directors, National (AAA) and International (ICDR) Rosters of Mediators and Arbitrators for large and complex cases
  • Professional Activities
    • Judge pro tem, San Francisco Superior Court
    • Speaker on a variety of ADR topics before professional organizations including the American Bar Association (Dispute Resolution Section, Forum on the Construction Industry, Litigation Section), CPR Institute, International Centre for Dispute Resolution, Intellectual Property Owners, Patent Law Institute, American College of Construction Lawyers, the ICC, the AAA, Canadian Bar Association, New York Bar Association, Oregon State Bar, Bar Association of San Francisco, California Judges Association, National Conference on Financial Management, Construction Industry Institute, ALI-ABA ("Top Ten Cost Effective Ways to Resolve Construction Disputes" webcast), College of Commercial Arbitrators, International Arbitrators Club, California Women Lawyers, and others
    • "The Experience Curve," ADR Profile, Daily Journal, April 3, 2015
    • Panelist, International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (CPR) and CPR China Panel; International Chamber of Commerce; and DPR Hawaii
    • Fellow, College of Commercial Arbitrators (Board of Directors); Fellow, American College of Construction Lawyers
    • Faculty, ABA Arbitration Institute, San Francisco, 2009 and Washington DC, 2010
    • IMI Certified Mediator

Background and Education

  • Full-time mediator and arbitrator, 1998-present
  • Partner/Associate, Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon LLP, San Francisco, 1982-1998
  • J.D., University of California, Berkeley School of Law (formerly Boalt Hall School of Law), 1982
  • M.A., University of Texas, Austin
  • B.A., Beloit College, Wisconsin


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