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You could call it a marriage of law and pop culture. A group of lawyers recently took to YouTube � the popular video Web site � to announce a $48 million class action settlement involving the antidepressant Paxil. The 90-second video � along with a virtual character known as the Dramatic Chipmunk � aims to alert potential class members about a settlement stemming from a lawsuit alleging that Paxil was unlawfully marketed to children. Hoorman v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., No. 04-L-715 (Madison Co., Ill., Cir. Ct.). “As long as you’re honest about something, why not also be funny,” said attorney Brian Wolfman of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group that launched the YouTube Paxil announcement, which debuted on July 6. “I just love the concept of it and I love the fact that we were able to do something a little different,” Wolfman said. “If we have another tool to get at a different generation of people, let’s go for it.” The YouTube class action notification scheme involved a seven-second video dubbed the Paxil Chipmunk, in which a startled chipmunk appears while the words sprawl below: “If you took Paxil, you could get $100 or more.” A longer 90-second video shows a confused teenager wandering around aimlessly, ending with an announcement that $48 million is sitting in a fund for people who had bought their children Paxil, and directs viewers to a Web site telling them how to make a claim. No registry Public Citizen did not litigate the case, but was involved in reaching the final settlement in October. One of the problems with notification in this case, Wolfman said, is that there is no way of knowing exactly who bought the drug for their children. No such registry exists, he said. And privacy laws prohibit that kind of information from being made available. After some brainstorming at Public Citizen, the idea of notification via YouTube came up. Stephen Tillery of Korein Tillery in St. Louis, who represented the plaintiffs in the Paxil litigation, said he’s open to any concept that helps get the word out about the settlement. “If YouTube accomplishes that purpose, then so much the better. That’s great. I’m all in favor of getting the notice out in any means we can,” Tillery said. According to the terms of the settlement, any money left unclaimed goes back to GlaxoSmithKline PLC. Class members have until Aug. 31 to file a claim. Dwight Davis, an attorney at Atlanta’s King & Spalding who represented GlaxoSmithKline in the Paxil litigation, said he had no problem with the video, so long as it didn’t imply any wrongdoing by his clients. “This is a free country and they’re certainly free to do something like this,” Davis said. But, he added, “if they’re suggesting that this child [in the video] is wandering around in a fog because they used Paxil, then we may very well have something to say about that because that’s misleading.” Davis stressed that GlaxoSmithKline has admitted no wrongdoing, and has repeatedly denied claims that it marketed Paxil to children or hid dangerous side effects. He said any prescriptions written for children were done so at a doctor’s discretion, and that his clients never marketed the drug for pediatric use. Davis said his clients ended up settling the case to avoid years of costly litigation.

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