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Danny Becnel Jr., high profile trial lawyer, dies at 75

Becnel played a role in dozens of multi-million dollar class action lawsuits over the years, including against the tobacco industry, oil and chemical companies.

LAPLACE, La. — Daniel "Danny" Becnel Jr., one of south Louisiana’s most prominent trial lawyers who represented plaintiffs in class action lawsuits that made national headlines, died Tuesday after a long illness. He was 75.

Becnel, who was well-known in the River Parishes, was reported as being seriously ill in late 2015, soon after waging an unsuccessful campaign for St. John the Baptist Parish President. For many years, Becnel battled leukemia. Several years ago he also underwent surgery to donate a kidney to his brother Robert, also a lawyer. 

Becnel had retired from his law practice, which had offices in Reserve and LaPlace. He played a role in dozens of large lawsuits over the years. That included personal injury and class action cases. He often referred to himself as “the king of torts.” His targets over the years included the tobacco industry, chemical companies and major corporations.

A 2010 Bloomberg profile said Becnel has "represented in some of the highest-profile class actions in American history, from fen-phen diet pills and Big Tobacco to Dow Corning breast implants," as well as Toyota sudden-acceleration cases.

Becnel led class-action lawsuits following the 2010 BP oil disaster and the 1988 explosion at Shell’s Norco refinery. He also represented families of those killed in the 1999 Mother’s Day bus crash and the 1976 Luling Ferry disaster.

Becnel represented Saints quarterback Drew Brees in a 2013 lawsuit over tax credits and Saints head coach Sean Payton, and dozens of other plaintiffs, in a 2010 over tainted Chinese drywall.

Following Hurricane Katrina, he was also a lead lawyer in a $330 million settlement against Murphy Oil over a tank spill during the storm that unleashed more than 1 million gallons of oil in several neighborhoods in St. Bernard Parish.

In 2015, Becnel waged a heated race for St. John Parish President, narrowly losing to Natalie Robottom. Over the years, he also ran for St. John district attorney, an appeals court judgeship and for a seat on the St. John school board. In the late 1970s he also served as parish attorney for St. John the Baptist Parish. Becnel was also very involved in local politics as a fundraiser and campaigner for other candidates.

Born in New Orleans, Becnel earned his bachelor’s degree in government and political science from LSU then a law degree from Loyola University. He opened his law firm in 1969 soon after earning his law degree.

In 1972, just out of law school, Becnel became the first attorney to win a million dollar personal injury verdict in Louisiana for a single individual.

His wife, Mary Hotard Becnel, served 23 years as a trial judge in St. John the Baptist Parish before retiring in 2016.

In 2018, the Becnels donated $1 million to Loyola’s College of Law for its Trial Advocacy curriculum by creating the Danny and Mary Becnel Trial Advocacy Program.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by four sons, seven grandchildren, a sister and brother.

Millet-Guidry Funeral Home is handing funeral arrangements.

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