Mardi Gras is over, and the college kids on spring break have left New Orleans. But the Big Easy can rest assured: The Vioxx bar has taken their place.

In February the Judicial Panel on Multi-district Litigation sent pending product liability litigation involving Merck & Co., Inc.’s Vioxx drug to Judge Eldon Fallon of the Eastern District of Louisiana. For the plaintiffs lawyers it’s familiar territory.

Last November a group of them gathered in New Orleans for an organizational meeting that lent support to Christopher Seeger of New York’s Seeger Weiss and Andy Birchfield, Jr., of Montgomery-based Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles to lead the massive litigation.

That support was solidified again after the MDL order. In February more than 250 lawyers met at a French Quarter hotel. This time they were there at the behest of Fallon, who had ordered them to name a liaison counsel. Seeger and Birchfield directed the meeting, and the assembly settled on four names that were submitted to the court.

Judge Fallon chose Russ Herman, a major player in the mass tort bar. Herman, of the New Orleans’s office of Herman, Mathis, Casey, Kitchens & Gerel, is familiar to Fallon. He served as liaison on the plaintiffs steering committee before Fallon in the MDL surrounding the drug Propulsid. The defense counsel also chose its liaison counsel, Phillip Whittmann of Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann in New Orleans.

March was busy for the Vioxx MDL. Fallon convened all counsel to address organizational issues. He also declared March 28 the deadline for plaintiffs steering committee nominations. Herman predicted at least 45 applicants, but he demurred on speculating about ultimate size and makeup: “We’re playing in Plato’s cave without a candle.”

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