“He had that mantra long before it became popular,” DeVoto said. “He’s impervious to cost. Whatever it requires to face, he just does whatever is necessary to get it done.”
DeVoto joked that the two parted company — Onder started his own firm 15 years ago — because Onder was more of a risk taker.
That paid off for Onder in 2016, when several talcum powder cases he was involved in yielded a collective $197 million in verdicts in St. Louis.
The cases alleged the plaintiffs’ ovarian cancer was linked to genital use of talcum powder found in Johnson & Johnson products, including its baby powder. The company has denied the link and is appealing the verdicts.
DeVoto said he wasn’t surprised Onder was able to “find the poison in the case” because he has a knack for it. Onder and other attorneys found internal memos from Johnson & Johnson, which served as key evidence. DeVoto said it was the same type of situation in litigation Onder is involved in relating to window blind strangulation.
Onder pointed to the window covering litigation as what he’s most proud of in his legal career.
His firm has handled more than 50 window covering cases. No other firm has handled more than one or two cases, and Onder has become a national expert on the issue. He had his first case 10 years ago and went to every lawyer who had worked on similar litigation and collected all of the information they had. Onder said he also collected information from the product safety commission, including death reports.
In addition to successful litigation, Onder helped work on a petition to ban window blinds in U.S. military housing.
“It’s a situation where you can actually see your actions making a difference and saving lives,” he said. “Those are things I’m most proud of.”
The same is beginning to be true in the talcum powder litigation, Onder said.
“We’re getting the word out to women that they know talc can cause ovarian cancer. No doubt that doing that is going to save lives,” he said. “I enjoy litigation where we can ac-tually make a difference.”
After getting an undergraduate degree in accounting, he started law school thinking he would go into corporate law.
But after law school he worked at Wuestling, James & DeVoto, which did plaintiff and indigent defense work and he has been doing plaintiff work ever since.
Onder will continue with a heavy case load in 2017. Six talc cases he is extensively involved in are set to go to trial and he will continue window covering litigation and product li-ability cases.