For more than 80 years, Herman Herman Katz has been a fixture in Louisiana. In 1942, David and Harry Herman founded a law firm in downtown New Orleans after working at other firms. Legend has it that the brothers, who immigrant parents raised in the Irish Channel neighborhood, first practiced out of a shoe store. The Hermans attended law school during The Great Depression at Louisiana State University and Tulane University. The firm initially had a “mom and pop” feel, and the lawyers took on various cases with a focus on smaller lawsuits.
Harry’s sons Russ, Maury, and Fred followed in his footsteps and joined the law firm in the 1960s and 1970s. When David’s sons Avram and Mark joined the practice, seven members of the Herman family worked at the law firm. The Herman & Herman practice shifted its focus to specialize in personal injury cases. In the mid-1970s, Morton Katz, a lifelong friend of Maury and Russ Herman, became a partner at our law firm. Family has always been important to our firm, and we remain family-led today. Three generations later, members of the Herman family still practice law at the firm.
Years after its initial formation, the law firm began to take on cases that remain notable today. In the 1970s, Russ Herman represented the parents of a couple killed in a shooting at a Howard Johnson hotel in downtown New Orleans. The hotel didn’t have adequate security, and a sniper entered the hotel and killed multiple people through a door that was propped open. The case took years to resolve, and it caused hotels around the country to change their best practices.
HHK has had an established footing in the legal industry for many years. Russ Herman served as president of the Civil Justice Foundation and the Roscoe Pound Foundation. Harry Herman helped found the American Trial Lawyers Association (ATLA), now known as the American Association for Justice. Russ later served as president of the organization.
As the firm grew, the list of notable cases also expanded, and HHK began to do more business litigation. In 1986, the firm helped negotiate Tom Benson’s deal to purchase the New Orleans Saints. Maury Herman served as the team’s general counsel for seven years.
Over the years, HHK evolved from focusing on more minor personal injury cases to catastrophic personal injury cases. The firm has played a role in many prominent lawsuits since its founding. Eventually, we added mass torts to its specialties, including some that hit close to home. Our team has extensive experience with class action lawsuits and multidistrict litigation (MDL), both of which result from a large number of people being injured in the same manner.
In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused 11 deaths and billions of dollars in economic and environmental damage. Steve Herman, son of Russ, served as co-lead and co-liaison counsel for the plaintiffs who sued BP. The oil company later agreed to a multi-billion dollar settlement with the disaster victims.
After Hurricane Katrina destroyed hundreds of thousands of Louisiana properties, builders were tasked with rebuilding an unprecedented number of homes quickly. U.S. drywall suppliers couldn’t keep up with demand, and builders turned to Chinese drywall companies. The only problem: the Chinese drywall was defective. It contained harmful chemicals and caused metal appliances to corrode. People living in homes with Chinese drywall complained of symptoms like asthma attacks, bloody noses, and trouble breathing. HHK represented plaintiffs affected by Chinese drywall and negotiated a multimillion-dollar settlement.
Russ Herman helped finalize Scott v. American Tobacco Company, a 14-year class action lawsuit that resulted from claims that tobacco companies misled smokers about the dangers of nicotine and tobacco products. The case concluded with the tobacco companies being ordered to fund a smoking cessation program for Louisiana smokers who began smoking before 1988. The cessation fund covered medication, counseling, and phone support for hundreds of thousands of Louisianans.
In 2013, HHK acted as co-lead counsel for plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the arthritis drug Vioxx. Merck advertised that the prescription was more effective than generic alternatives in violation of FDA regulations. Merck agreed to pay up to $23 million to settle the class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit came two years after a massive $4.35 billion settlement for the same drug after some patients taking Vioxx suffered strokes and heart attacks. Russ Herman was named 2007 Lawyer of the Year by Lawyers USA for his role in negotiations.
HHK also represented plaintiffs injured by Xarelto, an anticoagulant medication that prevents blood clots. Patients experienced harmful side effects, including internal bleeding and infections, after taking the drug manufactured by Bayer and Johnson & Johnson. The companies agreed to settle claims for $775 million in 2019.
Even though the firm has grown considerably since our start, our core values are the same. Our partners have decades of experience and are often the attorneys that handle cases. Some of the attorneys serving of counsel with our firm have more than 50 years of experience and provide consultations on cases. Our growing firm still operates as a family. More than 80 years later, members of the Katz and Herman families still work for the firm. When David and Harry opened the firm in 1942, they had no idea it would remain a fixture in the community for generations to come.