Danielle Ward Mason joined Beasley Allen Law Firm as an associate in 2009 and has spent the past seven years in the firm’s Mass Torts Section, investigating claims involving dangerous drugs and medical devices. She was named a principal at the firm in 2015 and is the first African-American woman to achieve that status.
Currently, Danielle is the lead attorney handling the firm’s Invokana litigation, representing clients that have suffered adverse side effects, which can include diabetic coma and death, from the blood sugar regulating medicine. In January 2017, Danielle was appointed to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee (PSC) for consolidated multidistrict litigation (MDL) pending in New Jersey federal court concerning Invokana’s link to kidney damage and diabetic ketoacidosis.
The lawsuits allege Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, failed to properly test the type 2 diabetes drug and warn consumers, health care professionals and the medical community of the risks and consequences of using it. U.S. District Judge Brian R. Martinotti was appointed by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation to preside over the MDL, which consolidated 55 cases from across the United States.
She also serves as the firm’s lead attorney for its Reglan litigation, where she has done extensive work in ensuring the survival of those claims despite the challenges created by the Supreme Court’s generic preemption decision, Pliva v. Mensing, in 2011. Reglan is associated with the development of uncontrolled muscle movements, a permanent and incurable condition known as Tardive Dyskinesia.
In addition to her work as lead attorney for Invokana and Reglan claims, Danielle devotes the rest of her practice to talcum powder litigation against defendants Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies Inc., and Imerys Talc America Inc. In February 2016, Danielle, along with her law partners Jere Beasley, Ted Meadows and David Dearing, secured a $72 million verdict against these defendants in St. Louis City Court on behalf of the family of Jackie Fox. The verdict includes $10 million in actual damages and $62 million in punitive damages. The jury found Johnson & Johnson guilty of negligence, conspiracy and fraud.
The talc litigation trial team secured a second verdict in May on behalf of plaintiff Gloria Ristesund, and a third in October on behalf of plaintiff Deborah Giannecchini. The jury awarded Ms. Ristesund $55 million, including $5 million in actual damages and $50 million in punitive damages, and the jury awarded Ms. Giannecchini $70 million, including $575,000 in medical damages, $2 million in compensatory damages, and $65 million in punitive damages against Johnson & Johnson and $2.5 million in punitive damages against Imerys. In May 2017, the team secured a fourth verdict on behalf of Lois Slemp. That jury awarded Ms. Slemp $110 million, including $5.4 million in compensatory damages and $105 million in punitive damages against the two companies. In August 2017, Danielle was a member of the trial team that secured a fifth verdict on behalf of Eva Echeverria in Los Angeles. The jury awarded her $417 million in damages, including $70 million in compensatory damages and $347 million in punitive damages.
More than 1,200 others nationwide claim that Johnson & Johnson talcum powder products, when used in the perineal area, significantly increases a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer. There are multiple trial settings this year, and Danielle will be a member of the trial team for all upcoming cases. Danielle and the other members of the talc litigation team were nominated as a finalist for the 2016 Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year Award in recognition of their work on these cases.
Danielle’s civil litigation experience has focused primarily on claims that impact and highlight important issues in women’s health, a cause for which she is most proud to advance. Prior to moving full-time to the talc litigation, she was one of the attorneys litigating claims related to transvaginal mesh (TVM). Transvaginal mesh is used to repair conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence. Reported complications from transvaginal placement of the mesh include erosion of the mesh into the vaginal tissue, organ perforation, pain, infection, painful intercourse and urinary and fecal incontinence. Often women require surgery to remove the mesh. In some cases, this can require multiple procedures without successful removing all of the mesh. The TVM claims involve transvaginal mesh manufactured by Bard, Boston Scientific, Caldera, Cook Medical and Johnson & Johnson and more than 70,000 women have been affected by these unreasonably dangerous products.
As an associate, Danielle was an integral part of the Hormone Replacement Therapy litigation. Hormone Replacement Therapy, including drugs such as Premarin, Prempro and Provera, have been associated with the development of breast cancer, and a black box warning was added to these products to address this very serious risk. The drugs also were promoted for off-label uses, including prevention of cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, however, these promoted “benefits” were shown to be non-existent. Because of the nature of the injury, Danielle routinely handled the in extremis plaintiff depositions for these cases, where she prepared these very sick and dying women for depositions to preserve their testimony for trial. Danielle was also part of the trial team that secured a $72.6 million verdict in 2011, on behalf of three plaintiffs in Philadelphia, who took HRT drugs and later developed breast cancer.
In August 2010, Danielle was specially appointed by the Chief Justice of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Ed Carnes, to brief and orally argue a claim on behalf of a pro se petitioner before the appellate court. Despite this being her first time before the 11th Circuit, she won the appeal on behalf of her client.
Awards and Ratings
Over the course of her legal and professional career, Danielle has been recognized and honored by a number of organizations. In 2016 and 2017, she was named as a Super Lawyers Mid-South Region Rising Star and was included in April 2016 on the Law360 Rising Stars list, which also recognizes attorneys younger than 40 who excel in their profession. Danielle has been named one of the “10 Best” Attorneys for Alabama by the American Institute of Personal Injury Attorneys and Beasley Allen’s 2016 Mass Torts Lawyer of the Year. She also was recognized by Auburn University Montgomery as a “Top 50 at 50,” which recognized the school’s top 50 graduates since its inception.
In addition, Danielle was selected as a 2016 recipient of the American Association for Justice F. Scott Baldwin Award. The award was established to honor and recognize F. Scott Baldwin of Marshall, Texas, a world-renowned trial lawyer, whose efforts have produced outstanding awards for injured victims and their families. The award is presented in recognition of the legendary degree of excellence and compassion that Scott Baldwin has brought to the profession and the significant time he has invested in training, preparing and encouraging lawyers to the profession of trial law.
In June 2015, Danielle was selected as the 2015 Alabama Black Achievers Award Attorney of the Year. The award was presented by the Oliver Robinson Foundation, which recognizes African Americans who give unselfishly of their time and/or resources to make a difference in their respective communities. Danielle was named to the 2014 and 2015 Super Lawyers “Rising Stars” list, which recognizes the top up-and-coming attorneys.
In July 2014, Danielle was named to Lawyers of Color’s Second Annual Hot List, which recognizes early- to mid-career attorneys excelling in the legal profession. She also was featured on “The List,” in RSVP magazine for July/August 2014, which profiles successful young professionals.
Danielle belongs to a number of organizations and currently holds several leadership positions. She is immediate past president of the Alabama Lawyers Association, the oldest state-wide minority association for the state of Alabama. Through this organization, she also coordinates the Minority Law Student Internship Program. This program seeks to vet and place exceptional minority law students in clerkship positions at reputable firms throughout the state. She has been involved in this program for the past seven years.
She was also president of the Montgomery County Association for Justice for 2016. She is an active member of the American Association for Justice, where she works intimately with the Minority Caucus and the Women’s Caucus. Through these caucuses, she has participated in a number of “Lobby Days,” where she has advocated on behalf of plaintiffs to members of Congress. She is a board member of the Alabama Post-Conviction Relief Project, where she works to secure funding for indigent defendants who have been unfairly convicted and sentenced to Alabama’s Death Row. She has been appointed to the board of Emory University Emerging Leaders and to a Duke Law committee focusing on best practices for the appointment of women and minority lawyers in class actions/MDLs. She is also a member of the Alabama State Bar, the American Association for Justice, the Alabama Association for Justice, the Montgomery County Bar Association, and the Capital City Bar Association.
In the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015, Danielle joined the faculty at Faulkner University’s Jones School of Law, where she taught Pre-trial Practice to 2nd and 3rd year law students, as an adjunct professor. The course was designed to provide a comprehensive overview of civil litigation in federal courts, from case investigation to settlement negotiations.
Before graduating from law school in 2007, she interned at the Federal Defender Office for the Middle District of Alabama. Upon passing the bar on April 25, 2008, she was immediately hired as an assistant federal defender. As an AFD, she was appointed by federal judges in the district to represent indigent defendants newly charged with federal crimes. She also was the first attorney in the office to be assigned to both the trial unit and the habeas unit simultaneously. Her work with the habeas unit involved extensive appellate work, both at the state post-conviction appeal level, as well as federal level appeals on behalf of defendants who have been unfairly convicted and sentenced to death row. She left the Federal Defenders Office in June 2009, when she joined the Beasley Allen Firm as an associate.
A native of Montgomery, Danielle graduated from Auburn Montgomery with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1999, followed by a master of business administration in 2001. She began a career in commercial banking, spending five years with Regions Bank and two years at Compass Bank before entering law school.