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The Long View

Founded in 1983, the law firm that has evolved into today’s Haile Shaw & Pfaffenberger P.A., has not only been a respected legal firm for discerning clientele, it has been a part of the history of the Palm Beaches. Here is our story, from the founding of the private law practice of Haile Shaw & Pfaffenberger on the island of Palm Beach, until today. And not only will we gather our history here; we will also include milestone cases and anecdotes that only long-time members and observers of the explosive growth of the Northern Palm Beaches can place into context.

  • 1983 The firm represents members of the Apollo 15 crew, Al Worden, Dave Scott, and Jim Irwin, in a well-publicized effort to get back the postal covers and commemorative stamps they took to the moon. The astronauts paid for the stamps and postal covers, yet some of the postal covers and other moonwalk-related memorabilia from previous missions turned up for sale in Europe, and in the estates of some members of the Senate. A Senate Subcommittee is formed, and the Apollo 15 astronauts’ postal covers are confiscated as part of the investigation. The National Archives at Smithsonian Institution took possession of all of the memorabilia. Astronauts Worden, Scott and Irwin retained the Firm to sue for the return of their postal covers, and the Firm served demand on the U.S. Government, NASA, The National Archives, the Justice Department and the President. Within a matter of months, the three Apollo 15 astronauts are invited back to Washington where they receive an apology and a return of their property at a formal ceremony in the Treaty Room of The Smithsonian. After the case is settled, the astronauts donate the postal covers as artifacts.
  • 1986 The firm opens a second office in the Golden Bear Plaza in North Palm Beach, also home to the firm’s high-profile client, Jack Nicklaus. It retains its Palm Beach location, headed by David Shaw. During that time, the Palm Beach branch of the firm represented the largest retail landlord, the largest commercial landlord, and the largest real estate brokerage on the island. The firm’s reputation for keeping its clients’ legal business “under the radar” and vigilant protection of client confidentiality led to its involvement in several of the largest estate deals in Palm Beach.
  • 1987 The Firm represents 114 investors in Palm Beach’s Brazilian Court Hotel who bought hotel rooms marketed and sold as condominiums. Their suit against Summit Savings Association and its successor thrift, Sunbelt Savings demands to rescind their purchases on the grounds that the hotel rooms are overpriced and illegally marketed. The Firm won a $9 million settlement for the plaintiffs.
  • 1988 The Firm brings and wins the first Sick Building Syndrome lawsuit in the United States, representing South Florida Savings, which tries to cancel its lease because some employees have mold growing in open wounds on their bodies. It is discovered that in response to oil embargo in the late 1970s, measures are taken to conserve energy and lower the amount of outside air that came into the building – the theory being that the more outside air that comes into the building, the more energy it requires to cool. Standards for fresh air are reduced dramatically, and with not enough fresh air in the building, air stagnates, moisture levels grow, toxic mold begins to grow, and employees’ respiratory systems are first affected, and ultimately, the accumulation of mold in employees’ bodies causes dramatic illnesses.
  • 1995 The firm represents Jack Nicklaus in a suit brought by the La Gorse Country Club in Miami, which claims its drainage problems are the result of Mr. Nicklaus’ design. The Firm and Mr. Nicklaus prevail because the course construction company failed to use the pumping system recommended, and flooded during the “100 Year Storm” in 1995.
  • 1997 The Firm wins a $2.4 million claim for a client against the Vero Beach office of Merrill Lynch in an arbitration case. The brokerage firm fails to execute sell instructions of Merck & Co. stock if it rose to $37 per share. When Merck’s stock hit that price, the brokerage firm did not sell until a month later when it was at $33.63 per share. The brokerage firm is found liable for breach of contract.
  • 1997 The Firm represents Jack Nicklaus in what would become the biggest jewelry scandal in the United States. Jack Hasson, a North Palm Beach “jeweler to the stars,” defrauds customers by passing off stones that are fake, flawed, filled, painted or even irradiated to bring out their color. Hasson settles out of court with Mr. Nicklaus after the Firm sends a Demand Letter giving him 10 days to make Mr. Nicklaus whole on the $1.5 million he spent over the years on jewelry for his wife and family, ultimately collecting $1 million for the golfer. In 2000, a nine-count fraud and money-laundering indictment against Hasson, which includes fellow golfer Greg Norman and Detroit TV station owner Aben Johnson, results in a 40-year sentence.
  • 2002 The firm represents the buyers of LTC Ranch in litigation involving a $25 million purchase contract. In spite of a signed contract, the seller tries to cancel it when the value of the land increases dramatically. In a very complex development and zoning case, a stalemate is hit when the seller demands $110 million for the property. After five years of litigation, an agreement is reached in March 2007 to split $90 million, and the Firm’s client received $45 million after putting up $5 million five years prior. Centex bought the property for $110 million, and three months later the Florida real estate market began its crash, which is still being felt today.
  • 2006 The firm represents two of the largest golf course developments / residential communities in the area – The Bears Club and the Ritz Carlton.

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