For the second year in a row Law360 has chosen Beasley Allen’s Danielle Ward Mason as one of its Rising Stars, nationally recognized attorneys younger than 40 who are impressing with accomplishments often not seen until later in an attorney’s career. This year’s winners were selected by a team of Law360 editors from among 1,200 submissions.
Ward Mason was chosen for her work as second-in-command in the firm’s talc litigation against Johnson and Johnson and Imerys Talc America, where she helped win $307 million in verdicts on behalf of ovarian cancer victims who were not warned that perineal exposure to talc could cause cancer.
A principal in the firm since age 37, she has a practice that is focused on health-related cases, and she is particularly passionate about women’s health issues. In her profile featured on Law360 Ward Mason had a lot to say about the rewards of working with clients, especially women in the talc cases and Prempro hormone replacement therapy cases.
“There’s an affinity there. I’m so adamant about helping women and trying to make sure that our health choices are appropriate and companies are doing the right thing about it,” she said.
She also leads the firm’s Invokana litigation and is on the the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) for consolidated multidistrict litigation (MDL) pending in New Jersey federal court. This blood-sugar regulating medicine used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes has been linked to kidney damage and side effects including diabetic coma and death.
With her legal focus, Ward Mason’s clients are often very sick, sometimes terminal, making her job an emotional one.
“Doing depositions, traveling to their homes and meeting their family — particularly in cases where they’re very sick, or doing a preservation deposition in cases where you think they’re not going to live to see their trial, you’d have to be a robot for it not to emotionally affect you,” she told Law360.
“I’m seeing it in the talc cases, because ovarian cancer has such a poor prognosis. In some cases, I have [a deposition] scheduled, ready to go, and they die before I get there. I’m almost tearing up now just thinking about it. It’s probably the hardest emotional part of this process.”
Of the talc cases that have already gone to trial, plaintiff Jacqueline Fox died before her case made it to trial and plaintiff Lois Slemp was too sick to attend her trial. Jurors heard their testimonies through recordings of their depositions. In February of 2016, Fox’s was the first of the Missouri talc trials and the jury found in her favor and awarded her estate a shocking $1 million in punitive damages for every year of her life, with a total verdict of $72 million. Slemp’s was the largest verdict yet, even though her case had been chosen to go to trial by the defense, with the jury awarding her $110 million.
Ward Mason spoke with Law360 about the relationships she develops with her clients and how challenging it is to deal with the frustration of the lengthy trial process. “It’s always a pretty long journey… My proudest moment is when I’m able to say ‘This is now done,’ and they’re pleased with what has happened and they’re happy with the services that they were provided,” she said.
“We congratulate Danielle on her continued success and hard work,” said Beasley Allen Principal & Managing Attorney Tom Methvin in a recent statement. “Her drive to obtain justice for her clients epitomizes our firm’s bedrock principle to put our clients first and ensure their access to justice.”