Tony Shafton Passes Away on His 72nd Birthday -- Berger Kahn Founding Partner and Legendary Trial Attorney

Irvine, California, UNITED STATES

PALM DESERT, Calif., July 19, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- It is with a heavy heart that attorneys across California say goodbye to Anthony E. Shafton, founding partner of Berger Kahn, a trial attorney well-known for his legal mind, quick wit and humorously presented anecdotes and stories. Shafton passed away on Wednesday, July 17, 2013, his 72nd birthday, after being in poor health since April. In July, Tony's lungs became severely compromised leading to a number of factors contributing to his passing.

Craig Simon, Managing Partner of Berger Kahn, said, "Tony was larger than life; a brilliant lawyer and a great teacher. I have known Tony since I was 6 years old, and he was my mentor and best friend."

A leader in the insurance legal field, Shafton helped Paul Berger and Chuck Kahn grow their firm from a few attorneys in the 1970s to an eighty-attorney firm during his 26-year tenure.

Shafton made a lasting impact on the practice of law throughout his 47 years as a practicing attorney.  He encouraged all those he worked with to "Say things simply," reflecting his early adoption of the movement for lawyers to use less verbose or obscure language. Simon remembers being told, "Drop the 'hereinafters' and fancy lawyer talk. Tell the judge what relief you are seeking in the first few sentences of your brief."

An incredibly accomplished insurance attorney, Shafton had served as Judge Pro Tem for Riverside and Los Angeles counties and was a Past President and founding member of the International Association of Property Insurance Counsel ("IAPRIC").  Shafton's most notable case, Gruenberg v. Aetna, 9 Cal.3d 966 (1973), decided by the California Supreme Court, established the duty of good faith and fair dealing for insurance companies as it related to property insurance. A little known fact about that case was that William Rylaarsdam, who now sits on the Court of Appeal, for the Fourth District Division Three, and Tony Shafton, were named defendants! The Supreme Court refused to extend the duty of good faith to insurer counsel.   Shafton used to joke, "The big case that I am known for, is one I lost! Oh well, at least they have to believe I was good enough to be assigned the tough cases." Shafton was involved in dozens of high-stakes cases that resulted in published appellate decisions. 

Shafton was a technology buff and embraced early versions of electronics that eventually developed into what we now know as computers. Shafton was one of the first to start developing computer programs for trial presentation and was one of the first lawyers to recognize the value of forensic anthropologists for what they could teach attorneys about communication between humans, in order to assist in jury presentations.

Shafton was also one of the first to embrace casual dress in the work place. In the 1970s it was relatively unheard of for a male lawyer to show up at a deposition in an open shirt without a coat. Over the years, Shafton took business casual to the outer edges, amusing those who knew him. Shafton would always joke, "If I wasn't great at what I do, do you think they would let me dress this way?" 

Beyond the success and growth he brought to his business, Shafton will not be forgotten by Berger Kahn partners and shareholders, who were greatly inspired by Shafton's leadership.

Says Berger Kahn Principal Sherman Spitz, "It is a terribly sad day for all who knew and loved Tony Shafton.  He was a brilliant attorney and a wonderfully unique and entertaining guy.  He will be sorely missed and never forgotten."

After his Honorable Discharge from active service in U.S. Army in 1960, Shafton received his undergraduate degree from UCLA in 1963 and his law degree from UCLA School of Law in 1966, graduating in the top 10% of his class.  He joined Berger Kahn in 1974 after serving as partner at Cummins, White & Breidenbach. Shafton left Berger Kahn in July 2001 to move to the Palm Desert area where he practiced part-time during his "retirement," including his recent pro-bono advocacy for local desert homebuyers against a developer who did not follow real estate laws. 

Shafton is survived by his wife of 23 years, Sandra Shafton of Palm Desert, CA, his sister Randy Gallagher and her husband Jiggs of Palm Springs, CA, son Brian Shafton and his wife Jennifer of Sherman Oaks, CA, daughter Dr. Elizabeth Shafton Bias and her husband Jeffrey, and grandchildren Mitchell and Hallie Bias of San Ramon, CA.

There will be a memorial in Los Angeles; the date and time has not yet been set.