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Thomas J. O'Leary



Thomas O'Leary practices in the areas of construction law, special education law and constitutional litigation. With a substantial background in engineering and materials science, Tom advises clients on a broad spectrum of matters related to construction contracts and the resolution of complex construction disputes. He represents public and private owners, developers, engineers and architects, sureties, construction managers, prime contractors, subcontractors, and equipment and material suppliers.

Tom offers practical solutions in regard to claims for delay and disruption, productivity losses, design and construction defects, default and termination, differing site conditions, scope of work disputes and performance and payment bond claims. Projects include heavy/highway, public works, commercial, marine and residential construction, as well as highways, hospitals, schools, universities, shopping centers, prisons, segmental earth retaining walls and geotechnical and power plants.

Since 2011, Tom has been listed on the American Arbitration Association’s Roster of Neutrals for construction cases. Admission to the roster is a competitive process for accomplished practitioners from legal and business communities throughout the United States.

Tom’s deep understanding of special education issues has been informed by personal circumstances involving his own child. From a legal and personal perspective, he appreciates the unique challenges that parents face in raising children with special needs, and in obtaining the education and services to which they are entitled. Tom advises parents regarding eligibility, evaluations and the preparation of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and assists with obtaining accommodations for their children under Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. When disputes arise, parents rely on Tom for representation in mediation, as well as litigation before the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law and in federal and state courts.

For five years, Tom served as a member of the Summit Zoning Board of Adjustment.  As a result of this experience, he has developed an area of focus in constitutional litigation arising out of municipal land use decisions.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Tom worked for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as an on-site monitor at a nuclear generating station. He also served in the U.S. Navy, where he accumulated more than 1,500 hours supervising operations and quality assurance for a nuclear-powered submarine’s nuclear propulsion plant.


Representative Experience 

  • Represented a national food distributer in connection with the negotiation and drafting of contracts for a $70 million project to construct its corporate headquarters and its northeast distribution center
  • Represented a neighborhood association that intervened into an action by a religious group challenging the denial of a use variance on the grounds that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment was violated and that RLUIPA’s “Exclusions and Limitations,” “Equal Terms,” and “Substantial Burdens” provisions were violated
  • Represented developer of 760,000 sq. ft. retail shopping center in multiple lawsuits and in an arbitration in connection with its $8.5 million claim against site work contractor arising out of defective design and construction of segmental retaining walls, subterranean reinforced concrete pipe, and multiple pavement failures of four lane highway and the defense of site contractor’s $17.5 million claim for damages for delay, productivity losses and unanticipated subsurface conditions
  • Appellate counsel to a municipality that had been sued by a religious group that filed a development application to construct a mosque and Township subsequently changed zoning ordinance requiring applicant to apply for a conditional use variance
  • Represented electrical subcontractor in connection with $13 million delay and productivity loss claim arising out of the construction of a psychiatric hospital
  • Represented design build contractor in connection with State’s claim for $23 million in damages due to alleged defective construction of high temperature hot water heating system for prison
  • Represented electrical prime contractor against board of education in connection with $700,000 claim for constructive acceleration and delay damages incurred during renovations to five public schools
  • Represented contractor in connection with $10 million in claims arising out of disputes concerning scope of work during the construction of a coal fired power plant in China
  • Represented Horizontal Directional Drilling Subcontractor in connection with $5 million claim arising out of the construction of underground pipeline beneath Long Island Sound
  • Represented mechanical contractor in connection with $1.7 million claim for loss of productivity and delay damages incurred during renovations to high school
  • Represented general contractor in defense of subcontractor’s claim for damages in excess of $1.5 million arising out of its termination from project involving renovations to security building at Lincoln Tunnel
  • Represented material supplier against developer of townhomes in connection with its $180,000 claim for materials supplied to project and the defense of material supplier in connection with developer’s $1 million claim for defective materials and delay damages
  • Represented general contractor in defense of paving subcontractor’s claim for delay and loss of productivity damages in excess of $1 million


  • State v. Perini Corp., 221 N.J. 412 (2015)
  • Basil v. Wolf, 193 N.J. 38 (2007)
  • T.O. and K.O. v. Summit City Bd of Educ., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97888 (D.N.J. July 27, 2015)


Professional and Community Affiliations 

  • American Bar Association, Public Contract Law Section
  • New Jersey Bar Association, Construction Law Section

News & Insights


Boston College Law School (J.D., 1998)

Rutgers University College of Engineering (B.S., with honors, 1987)


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