Darlene M. Nowak

Darlene Nowak
(412) 338-5214
  • Commercial Litigation
  • Corporate Compliance Litigation
  • Creditors Rights
  • Bankruptcy
  • Estate Administration and Litigation
  • University of Michigan, J.D., cum laude, 1981
  • Canisius College, B.A., summa cum laude, 1978
  • Member, St. Thomas More Society
  • Member, Elder Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association
  • Member, American Bar Association, Pennsylvania Bar Association, Allegheny County Bar Association
  • Prior Board Member, Allegheny County Bar Association, Bankruptcy and Commercial Law Section
  • Managing Editor, University of Michigan Law School, Journal of Law Reform, 1980-1981
  • Dykema Scholarship, University of Michigan Law School
  • National Merit Scholar, 1974
  • The Honorable George Brody, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Michigan, 1981-1982
  • Pennsylvania
  • U.S. District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania
  • New York Court of Appeals
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

Darlene Nowak practices in the area of commercial litigation, real estate litigation, corporate compliance, and litigation (including federal election commission compliance) creditor’s rights, orphan’s court litigation and estate planning and administration.  

Commercial Law:  

Creditors’ Rights in Bankruptcy:  Darlene was successful in a case of first impression before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Giant Eagle, Inc., et al. v. Phar-Mor, Inc., 528, F.3d 455 (6th Cir. 2008) establishing an equipment lessor’s right to damages in bankruptcy where remedial measures fail.  She also successfully defended a regional distributor in a multi-million dollar breach of contract action arising out of the sale of extended warranties.  

Darlene represented numerous commercial landlords in actions against defaulting tenants and their guarantors in and out of bankruptcy court, often collecting sums in cases others have written off.  In the Snyder’s Drug Stores, Inc., Case No. 03-44577 in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Darlene organized and led a consortium of commercial landlords in opposing a proposed plan of reorganization that planned to pay them nothing while other creditors would continue to be paid.  Darlene participated in negotiations which resulted in millions of dollars of recovery to the landlord creditors, as well as payment of their attorney’s fees.

Retirees’ Rights in Bankruptcy:  Darlene has also represented dozens of retired executive employees and former board members in actions to recover and protect millions of dollars of pensions and benefits when their former employers went into bankruptcy after takeovers or changes in management.  

A former bankruptcy law clerk, Darlene has published articles on bankruptcy and commercial law in the American Bankruptcy Law Journal and the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, and has spoken on the panels of the Annual Tri-State Bankruptcy Symposium of the Bankruptcy and Commercial Law Section of the Allegheny County Bar Association.  Darlene’s article on turnover from tax levies was one of the authorities followed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Whiting Pools, Inc., 462 U.S. 198, 103 S. Ct. 2309, 76 L. Ed. 2d 515 (1983).  

Business Operations and Corporate Compliance:  Darlene consults with businesses on a wide range of corporate compliance issues including:  

  • The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and corresponding state statutes
  • Sarbanes Oxley Compliance
  • Corporate Document Retention and Privacy Policies  
  • Fair Advertising Practices under the Federal Trade Commission and State regulations
  • “Card Act,” “Red Flag Act,” and Anti-Money Laundering Statutes
  • Compliance by Political Action Committees under the Rules of the Federal Election Commission, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Ohio

Estate Planning and Litigation:   Elder citizens are living longer, healthier and more diverse lives than ever before and Darlene is experienced in defending their rights to use or leave their property to whomever they wish, and helping them construct estate plans that protect their rights to honor and reward only those persons and organizations closest to their hearts.  

Where the rights of the frail or disabled elderly are involved, Darlene has been successful in recovering the person and property of seniors who are removed from their homes or relieved of their assets by interfering or opportunistic family members.

Darlene has a substantial practice in the area of estate litigation and has participated in cases testing wills, gifts and issues of guardianship, and capacity.  She successfully represented the heirs of a deceased landowner in recovering payment for land claimed by a government agency more than fifty years earlier.


Giant Eagle, Inc., et al. v. Phar-Mor, Inc., 528 F.3d 455 (6th Cir. 2008)

The firm obtained a judgment of over $2.7 million for its client against the lessee of warehouse equipment who filed for bankruptcy.  When lessee rejected the lease, the lessor entered into a new lease with another lessee, who also went into bankruptcy within a few months.  In a case of first impression in any district or circuit court of appeals, the firm obtained a decision holding that the substitute lease did not cut off damages against the first lessor, and full damages for breach of the lease could be recovered in bankruptcy.  The case was argued at the Bankruptcy Court, U.S. District Court and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals by Darlene.

In re Petition of Allegheny County to Lease County Real Estate (Property of Boyd)

148 Pitts. Leg. J. 73 (Allegh. Co. 1999)

The firm successfully recovered real property originally deeded to Allegheny County in 1946 but which contained a condition that it would revert to the owner’s heirs if it was ever not used for “an airdrome.”  Through careful analysis of both the current and historical descriptions of land use conditions and substantial research into the county and state records, the firm convinced the court that the nature of the land title obtained by the County – a fee simple determinable – required return of the property to the heirs of the original owner when Allegheny County opened its new international air terminals in 1992.  The case was tried and verdict obtained by Darlene.

Roundy’s Inc. v. Giant Eagle, Inc., No. 1:96-cv-00466 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Jan. 22, 1998)

The firm obtained summary judgment on behalf of defendant in a multi-million dollar trademark infringement case.  Plaintiff supermarket chain alleged that Defendant supermarket chain infringed its trademark by adopting a customer loyalty card that included the word “advantage.”  The firm obtained a summary judgment for Defendant on the grounds that “advantage” was already widely used and other aspects of the two cards clearly distinguished them in the minds of the public.  The case was tried and settled by Darlene and attorney Robert L. Allman.

Lauran Webb et al. v. Giant Eagle Inc., et al., No. 2:10-cv-01414 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (Jan. 6, 2011)

The firm obtained a voluntary dismissal of a class action concerning whether dishonored checks may be re-presented electronically or submitted to a debt collection agency for presentation without prior notice to the writer under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act.  The remaining claims against the debt collection agency were denied at summary judgment based in part on arguments advanced by the firm in its successful motion to dismiss.  The case was briefed and defended by Darlene.