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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Mary Theresa Bryant and Anna Menses claimed that, while working for Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. in Houston on Nov. 1, 2001, the elevator they were riding on in the office building unexpectedly dropped three flights and injured them. They sued several elevator supply and repair companies for negligence and gross negligence. David Trujillo and Rawle Frank intervened in the suit, saying they were passengers in another elevator that fell three flights floors and injured them. They added claims of negligence and malice. Both sets of plaintiffs sought actual and punitive damages. The case was originally set for trial on Jun 1, 2004. On March 25, the elevator companies moved to designate Southwestern Bell as a responsible third party, since the plaintiffs were Southwestern Bell employees and the accident happened in the Southwestern Bell building. The trial court entered an order on April 5 sustaining the plaintiffs’ objections. On Nov . 10, the elevator companies asked the trial court to reconsider. They also alleged at this time that the Southwestern Bell building had a defective design that may have contributed to the elevator problems. This motion is still pending. On Dec. 1, the elevator companies filed a motion to designate unknown vandals as responsible third parities, alleging that the incident was the result of a power surge caused by a fault at an off-site transformer caused by unknown vandals. The trial court sustained the plaintiffs’ objection to the designation � saying it was a speculative theory � on Dec. 20. The elevator companies next moved to designate Centerpoint Energy Houston Electric as a responsible party on Jan. 5, 2005. Centerpoint had at one time been named as a defendant by the plaintiffs, but were then nonsuited from the suit for lack of evidence. The trial court sustained the plaintiffs’ objection to this designation as well. The case was reset for trial on Feb. 7, 2005, though this court in the meantime stayed the proceedings so it could consider the elevator companies’ petition for a writ of mandamus with this court. HOLDING:Writ denied. The court analyzes the propriety of the trial court’s rulings using Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 33.004 on designating responsible third parties. The court finds that the elevator companies attempted to designate that party less than 60 days before trial, which is untimely under 33.004(a). Furthermore, the elevator companies did not establish good cause for the delay. As to the unknown vandals, the court looks to 33.004(j) and finds that the statute clearly and unambiguously requires a defendant seeking to designate an unknown person as a responsible third party, based on the person’s commission of criminal acts causing the loss or injury that is the subject of the lawsuit, to file an answer containing such allegations no later than 60 days from filing its original answer. Here, the elevator companies did not file an answer containing the allegations against the unknown vandals until well after 60 days after filing their original answer. Finally, as to Southwestern Bell, the record finds enough evidence that would allow Southwestern Bell to be designated as a responsible third party, as the elevator companies established that the plaintiffs were employees and that Southwestern Bell owned the building where the elevators were. However, despite this conclusion, the court nonetheless rules that mandamus is inappropriate in this case. Mandamus is appropriate when there is no other remedy at law. Here, there is an adequate remedy in a basic appeal of the trial court’s erroneous ruling. The elevator companies cite a ruling in the Arthur Andersen/Enron case that justified mandamus relief where there was concern over a waste of judicial resources. The court finds no similar justification in this case. The court adds that, as emphasized by the Texas Supreme Court, whether mandamus relief is appropriate depends heavily on the circumstances presented. “Here, any benefits to mandamus review are outweighed by the detriments,” the court concludes. OPINION:Jennings, J.; Nuchia, Jennings and Alcala, JJ.

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