W. James Johnson


Phone (828) 771-2492
Fax (828) 257-2767
University of South Carolina
Juris Doctor, cum laude, 2000
Wofford College
Bachelor’s Degree in English, 1996

James Johnson is a principal with The Van Winkle Law Firm and a proven litigator who has successfully tried numerous lawsuits to verdict in a wide range of construction, business and transactional matters.

Johnson is the lead principal for the firm’s Construction and Professional Design group, for which he represents contractors, owners, developers and design professionals on both public and private projects throughout North and South Carolina.  A published author and frequent speaker on construction law topics, his realm of experience extends from the preparation and negotiation of agreements, project disputes and claims, to litigation, mediation and arbitration of a variety of construction matters, including claims of defective construction and design, subcontractor disputes, delays and sureties and liens.

In addition, Johnson is often involved in complex business and commercial disputes and has successfully litigated business transactions, shareholder disputes, lender-liability claims and claims arising from business dissolutions.

Prior to joining the firm in 2002, Johnson worked at a civil litigation firm in Columbia, S.C.  Before that, he clerked with the Honorable James R. Barber. While attending law school, Johnson was admitted to the Order of the Wig & Robe and was a published member of the South Carolina Law Review.

Professional Affiliations 
  • 28th Judicial District Bar
  • Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), Carolinas
  • American Institute of Architects (AIA), Asheville AIA
  • North Carolina Bar Association, Council and Secretary to the Construction Law Section
  • Richland County Bar Association
  • South Carolina Bar Association
Awards and Honors
  • Best Lawyers of America
  • Harry C. Martin American Inns of Cour
  • North Carolina Bar Association, Participating Author, North Carolina Construction Law Desk Book
  • North Carolina Bar Association, Co-Chairperson and Planner “Construction Law 2013: Practice Smarter, Not Harder”
  • North Carolina Legal Elite
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers and “Rising Star” in 2011-2013
  • South Carolina Law Review, Past Editor
Practice Highlights
  • Obtained an arbitration award for delay damages in favor of a general contractor on a public highway project in the amount of $314,685.71.
  • Obtained a jury verdict in Henderson County in excess of $1.2 million arising out of a fraudulent series of land transactions.
  • Obtained a verdict of $8.7 million in a jury trial in Buncombe County, in a case concerning a dispute over the sale of an aircraft.
  • Obtained a verdict after a four-week jury trial in Henderson County Superior Court in favor of Henderson County homeowners in excess of $2.4 million, including actual and punitive damages, for defective construction and fraud.
  • Obtained summary judgment for an engineer of record who was sued by an owner in a $900,000 claim.
  • Obtained a directed verdict for an engineer of record in a professional malpractice case with claims exceeding $1 million in damages. The verdict was upheld on appeal to the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
  • Obtained summary judgment on behalf of an engineer of record in a wrongful death claim, where alleged damages exceeded $2 million.
  • Participated in a shareholder oppression bench trial in South Carolina which favorably resolved in the second week of trial.
  • Tried a fraud and breach of fiduciary duty case to a jury verdict in Henderson County in excess of $100,000.
Presentations & Publications
  • Co-Author, “Waiver of Subrogation: A Valid Defense for Architects and Engineers?” Change Order, a publication of the NC Bar Association Construction Section, November 2012
  • Co-Author, “Waiver of Subrogation: A Valid Defense for Architects and Engineers?” 51st Annual Meeting of Invited Attorneys, 2012
  • Participating Author, North Carolina Construction Law Desk Book, N.C. Bar Association, 2010

James’s travels around the world have led him on many adventures. His most exciting expeditions have included running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, and driving a pickup truck from Texas to Guatemala and back in three months. A native of Columbia, S.C., James is married to Tricia Tiller Johnson, with whom he has two children, Tiller and Mack.

Favorite Foods:           Spanish paella, huevos rancheros and barbecue
Favorite Music:           Old-time string band, old country, bluegrass, newgrass and blues
Favorite Book:            ”Lonesome Dove”
Favorite Movie:           Anything from the Coen Brothers
Passions in Life:         Playing music, biking, hiking, running and his dogs
Guilty Pleasures:        John Grisham novels