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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:The issue in this mandamus proceeding is whether the trial court erroneously consolidated for trial the workplace toxic tort claims of 20 plaintiffs against nine defendants. HOLDING:The court concludes that the consolidation of these 20 plaintiffs’ claims against the defendants was an abuse of discretion for which there is no adequate remedy by appeal. The court orders the trial court to vacate its Jan. 2, 2003, order consolidating the claims of the 20 plaintiffs. In determining whether various claims are appropriate for consolidation, the dominant consideration in every case is whether the trial will be fair and impartial to all parties. Consolidation should be avoided if it would cause confusion or prejudice as to render the jury incapable of finding the facts on the basis of the evidence. If an injustice will result from consolidated trials, a trial court “has no discretion to deny separate trials.” To aid in the determination of whether consolidation is appropriate in a mass tort case alleging exposure in a workplace, this court in In Re: Ethyl Corp., 975 S.W.2d 606, 611 (Tex. 1998) adopted the “Maryland factors”: 1. whether the plaintiffs shared a common work site; 2. whether the plaintiffs shared similar occupations; 3. whether the plaintiffs had similar times of exposure; 4. whether the plaintiffs have a similar type of disease; 5. whether plaintiffs are alive or deceased; 6. the status of discovery; 7. whether all plaintiffs are represented by the same counsel; 8. the type of cancer alleged, if any; and 9. the type of products to which the plaintiffs were exposed. Although some factors favor consolidation of this group of plaintiffs, the most critical factors weigh against consolidation. Most importantly, because the plaintiffs worked at what were effectively different work sites, and thus were exposed to entirely different chemical mixtures, other dissimilarities involving disease and occupations are magnified. Establishing a defendant’s liability based on one plaintiff’s exposure to a certain chemical combination will not aid in establishing a different defendant’s liability for another plaintiff’s exposure to an entirely different mixture of chemicals. Rather, it would only serve to prejudice and confuse a jury. Although some plaintiffs could appropriately share causation evidence by claiming exposure to the same chemical combinations and could therefore be consolidated for trial, not all twenty plaintiffs here could make such a claim. Because analysis of the evidence using the factors adopted in Ethyl and In Re: Bristol-Myers Squibb, 975 S.W.2d 601 (Tex. 1998), demonstrates that significant juror confusion and undue prejudice would result from a trial of this particular group of 20 plaintiffs, the court holds that the trial court abused its discretion in consolidating this group for trial. Extraordinary circumstances are present in this case because an appellate court could not remedy the likely juror confusion in a consolidated trial of these 20 plaintiffs’ claims. Given the totally unrelated claims of plaintiffs exposed to entirely different chemicals produced by different defendants, consolidation risks the jury finding against a defendant based on sheer numbers, on evidence regarding a different plaintiff, or out of reluctance to find against a defendant with regard to one plaintiff and not another. The defensive theories as to many of these plaintiffs may also differ given the varying sources of exposure. The confusion created by multiple defensive theories is augmented in this case because there are 55 original defendants and at least nine remaining defendants. Similarly, confusion and prejudice could subsume the valid claim of a plaintiff based on an unrelated flaw or defense applicable to a different plaintiff’s claim. Juror confusion and prejudice, under these facts, is almost certain, and it would be impossible for an appellate court to untangle the confusion or prejudice on appeal. OPINION:Per curiam.

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