Those difficulties stemmed from potential jurors' strong feelings on both sides of the issues, according to Recht.
"Many felt individuals shouldn't be entitled to sue because they knew what they were getting into [by using tobacco products]," he said. "Others thought that tobacco companies were monsters and couldn't purge their minds of that."
In 2011, Recht declared a mistrial in Wheeling after it became clear the issues in the case were broader than had been anticipated, he said.
The case is being handled as mass litigation even though it is not a class action.
Mass litigation is for cases with "multiple parties that involve complex issues -- not conventional trials," Recht said.
Recht has been handling tobacco litigation for about 13 years. He was appointed as a senior status judge last year after his retirement.
"I feel like it's a part of me," he said.
In 2001, a Wheeling jury ruled in favor of the tobacco companies -- holding that they should not be responsible for smokers' medical monitoring. The state Supreme Court later affirmed that verdict.
Plaintiffs had attempted to require the defendants to pay for periodic doctor visits and tests to determine if smoking was the cause of their health problems.
If the companies are found liable in this case, and other trials are required to evaluate the damage claims, Recht hopes the cases would be divided among other judges.
"I'm 75, and those would take me well past 85," he said.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.