CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Closing arguments are scheduled to begin next week in Charleston in civil cases filed on behalf of hundreds of local people against the country's largest tobacco manufacturers.
Senior Status Judge Arthur Recht of Ohio County is presiding over the mass litigation trial taking place in the old Kanawha County Courthouse.
It's the third time attorneys have attempted to try the case, alleging tobacco injuries to more than 800 plaintiffs.
In 2011 a mistrial resulted during the first trial in Wheeling. A second attempt to seat a jury in Kanawha County failed.
This time, county officials called 8,000 residents as potential jurors and narrowed that list to 800. In mid-April, lawyers for both sides chose 10 from that group and presentation of evidence got underway.
Most of the cases were filed in Kanawha County.
While it is mass litigation, it is not a class action lawsuit that lumps all of the plaintiffs into one trial.
Injury - in some cases the plaintiffs have died - is alleged to have been caused by Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, American Tobacco Co., Brown and Williamson and Lorillard, all major manufacturers of cigarettes.
The judge said contemporary attitudes about tobacco and smoking make finding impartial jurors a difficult job.
Recht said, "People think there's so much information out there that if you smoke, shame on you.
"On the other side, some people view tobacco companies as the devil incarnate - string them up!" he said.