Steve Skarnulis thrives on the competitive instincts necessary to handle difficult business disputes. He has counseled, negotiated, litigated, and arbitrated matters in the construction, insurance, reinsurance, banking and finance, private equity, hospitality, chemical, healthcare, technology, and energy industries. Mr. Skarnulis has served as counsel for a range of business clients, from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Skarnulis is an advocate who studies the people, facts, and technical issues underlying a case, in order to persuasively present his clients’ interests in court, arbitration, mediation, or the boardroom.
Prior to beginning a second career as an attorney, Mr. Skarnulis owned and managed restaurants in Austin, Dallas, and Atlanta. He left the long hours and stress of the hospitality industry for the long hours and rewards of his second career as a lawyer, a job he’d long dreamed of. Mr. Skarnulis moved back to Texas from Atlanta to attend Baylor University School of Law, an acclaimed training ground for advocacy skills.
Mr. Skarnulis graduated from Baylor Law in 2003. While there, he was an articles editor for the Baylor Law Review and was a member of Baylor’s award-winning mock trial team. Mr. Skarnulis was the recipient of various honors and scholarships at Baylor, including the Order of the Barristers, and was the winner of the school’s Dawson Sodd & Beard moot court competition. Mr. Skarnulis holds his B.B.A. from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.
Mr. Skarnulis has been named a Texas Monthly “Rising Star,” and writes and presents for continuing legal education seminars. Mr. Skarnulis volunteers in the legal community, serving as a mock trial judge for University of Texas competitions and other regional competitions, and presenting mock voir dire jury selection in area high schools as part of the Texas State Bar’s “Pick Me” jury program. Mr. Skarnulis is proud of his membership on the board of the Arc of the Capital Area, an organization serving children and adults with developmental disabilities. Mr. Skarnulis and his wife, Libba, are also active in a variety of community events, as well as the many activities of their twins, Quinn and Carver.
Mr. Skarnulis began his law career with Van Osselaer, Cronin & Buchanan LLP, at the firm’s inception, following its spinoff from Hughes & Luce LLP. In April 2007, Mr. Skarnulis joined Charlie Cain in founding Cain & Skarnulis in Austin, Texas. In addition to courts in the state of Texas, Mr. Skarnulis is admitted to practice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and all federal district courts in Texas and Colorado.
Litigation and Arbitration:
- Trial counsel securing a significant judgment in a federal jury trial for wrongful foreclosure on a commercial building in Austin.
- Trial and appellate counsel in a case in which C&S won a record jury verdict in Kendall County. C&S represented a drilling contractor suing for coverage under a well blowout insurance policy.
- Trial counsel for a multimillion dollar land dispute, securing a postjudgment settlement valued at more than $10 million.
- Trial and appellate counsel in a title dispute, winning on appeal in a case with damages approaching $20 million.
- Trial counsel in a case resulting in a record-setting jury verdict in Lavaca County, Texas, representing a seismic contractor suing for breach of contract.
- Trial counsel in a multi-party lawsuit over the failure of an operator to drill a well. Secured a favorable jury verdict, leading to a settlement allowing the well to be drilled.
- Trial counsel in a biomedical equipment corporate governance dispute, leading to settlement, immediately after prevailing in a pretrial hearing.
- Arbitration counsel in a complex commercial construction case, leading to a favorable post-arbitration settlement.
- Arbitration counsel in several oil and gas disputes.
- Trial counsel in a month-long trial litigating the rights of C&S’s reinsurer client. Secured favorable judgment and won additional damages on appeal.
- Numerous bench trials in a variety of counties.
- Counsel for many emergency hearings, securing temporary restraining orders and injunctions for a number of businesses.
- Counsel for a research scientist dealing with investigation by the Department of Defense related to allegations of misconduct and plagiarism.
- Lead counsel in four interrelated cases in bankruptcy court, New York state courts, and New York federal court, representing a CEO of a Chapter 11 debtor company in suits brought by investors. Secured settlements resolving all litigation with no personal liability to the officer.
- Represented banking clients in multiple foreclosure, guaranty, and collection cases.
- Settled a complex case shortly before trial securing patent rights in an innovative and valuable data compression technology, allowing clients to secure startup funding for a new company in Singapore with a Cayman Islands headquarters.
- Represented investors in a securities violation case, securing a multimillion dollar settlement just a week before trial.
- Defended a case in which an NBA star was sued for assault and personal injury, settling for less than $10,000, shortly after the case began.
- Represented a European bitcoin trading concern in a suit against an American bitcoin mining manufacturing company.
- Defended zipline and adventure course clients in personal injury suits, securing take-nothing judgments based on waivers, and settling an adventure course case for less than 20% of the plaintiff’s claimed damages.
- Secured the dismissal of seven plastic surgery center defendants sued for patent infringement for their use of a body-sculpting technology.
- Mr. Skarnulis has been responsible for additional judgments and settlements in excess of $100 million.
Business Advice and Contracting:
- Prepared master services agreements for consultants and contractors in technology, construction, and oilfield services.
- Advised an aircraft sales broker on employment and risk management issues.
- Advised a chemical distributor on employment issues, including drafting management contracts with equity incentives, noncompete agreements, and nondisclosure agreements. Further advised the client and negotiated contract terms with suppliers and the largest online business-to-business distribution website.
- Assisted in the preparation of documents, deeds, and entity formation for an extensive family limited liability corporation, for asset protection and wealth transfer.
- Prepared documents transferring ownership of two large oilfield services contractors after securing rights to the businesses as part of the settlement of a contentious litigated matter.
- Assisted several restaurants and bars with inception, financing, corporate governance issues, and risk management analysis.
- Advised China-based client on a number of stateside concerns and potential disputes.
- Advised homebuilder clients on multiple agreements involving potential homeowners, as well as subcontractors.
- Prepared detailed form contracts for seismic exploration contractor.
- Mr. Skarnulis frequently serves as an outside attorney to clients in many different industries, responsively providing critical advice to clients on issues as they arise. He is not a nine to five lawyer—his clients can reach him outside business hours, always.