Varela, Lee, Metz & Guarino (VLMG)

Stephen Pessagno


Stephen Pessagno is a Partner in VLMG’s Bay Area office. His practice focuses on commercial and construction litigation, representing design professionals, general contractors, and subcontractors for public and private projects. Stephen has litigated complex commercial disputes before state and federal courts, arbitration panels, and administrative boards throughout the country. He also regularly provides advice to clients for forthcoming and ongoing projects, including with respect to bid protests, project claims and dispute resolution, and contract drafting.

Before joining VLMG, Stephen worked at a national litigation law firm based in Atlanta, Georgia, and also practiced commercial litigation in California’s Central Coast. In law school, Stephen served as a judicial intern for the Honorable R. Marc Kantrowitz at the Massachusetts Court of Appeals, was an editor for the American Journal of Law & Medicine, and served as a research assistant for the Reporter of the Restatement (Third) of Restitution and Unjust Enrichment.


  • Prosecuted appeal for government contractor before the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals, overturning default termination of $34 million road construction project in Yellowstone National Park, including serving as trial counsel for multi-week hearing in San Francisco, CA; Eagle Peak Rock & Paving, Inc., CBCA No. 5692, 21-1 B.C.A. (CCH) ¶ 37752 (C.B.C.A. Dec. 7, 2020). 
  • Represented general contractor in complex arbitration proceeding and successfully overturned default termination by owner, an enterprise of a Native American Tribe, of prime contract exceeding $179 million for hotel expansion project in Brooks, CA. 
  • Represented general contractor in arbitration proceeding before the Office of Administrative Hearings against the State of California, Department of Transportation (Caltrans) arising from highway paving project; obtained successful award on contractor’s claims, including attorneys’ fees, expert fees, and costs. 
  • Successfully defended general contractor joint venture against bid protests challenging award by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) of contract with NTE value of $600 million for fire debris removal and recovery services resulting from the Camp Fire in Butte County, CA. 
  • Representing general contractor in state court breach of contract action arising from $165 million student housing project for a California State University. 
  • Represented contractor in complex state court breach of contract action exceeding $30 million in claims arising from construction of PG&E substations in San Francisco, CA. 
  • Represented international design professional and contractor in coordinated litigation in Delaware and Georgia regarding renovation of a pulp and paper mill in Louisiana; obtained summary judgment in the Delaware Court of Chancery and successfully defended appeal to the Delaware Supreme Court. 
  • Represented international energy company in litigation venued in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi stemming from natural gas pipeline explosion.
  • Prosecuted complex breach of contract and quiet title claims in California state and federal courts regarding Cannery Row property development.


  • The Short Tenure of an Intentional Interference Claim in California Public Works Bidding, American Bar Association Forum on Construction Law, Div. 13 (Oct. 2017) 
  • Co-Author, In-House Counsel and the Privilege Problem, Atlanta Bar Ass’n (2012) 
  • Prometheus and Bilski: Pushing the Bounds of Patentable Subject Matter in Medical Diagnostic Techniques with the Machine-or-Transformation Test, 36 J.L. & Med. 619 (2010) 
  • San Francisco Health Care Ordinance Withstands ERISA Preemption Challenge—Golden Gate Rest Ass’n v. City & County of S.F., 35 J.L. & Med. 696 (2009)

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