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On Petition for Writ of Mandamus

The fifteen relators in this original mandamus proceeding are defendants in a seven-year-old mass-tort suit involving 448 plaintiffs. *fn1 Relators seek relief from the trial court’s orders abating almost all discovery and allowing the plaintiffs’ counsel to pick which plaintiffs’ claims will be tried first. Many of the relators and other defendants who have since settled sought the same relief more than three years ago in mandamus petitions first to the court of appeals, which denied relief without opinion, *fn2 and then to this Court. We denied relief “without prejudice” to give the trial court “the opportunity to reconsider the abatement order” *fn3 in light of our then-recent opinion in In re Colonial Pipeline Co. *fn4 Relators immediately moved the trial court for such reconsideration, but after the trial court delayed ruling on their motion for a year, relators again petitioned the court of appeals for mandamus relief. While relators’ petition was pending there, the trial court denied relators’ motion. The court of appeals conditionally granted partial relief, *fn5 and relators have now returned here. We grant additional relief.

The underlying litigation was filed on August 25, 1994, by 454 plaintiffs (a few of whose claims have since been dismissed) who had worked at the Parker-Hannifin Corporation’s O-ring seal manufacturing facility in McAllen. They alleged that they had suffered personal injuries from exposure to what they called a “toxic soup” of chemicals in the plant environment, chemicals they claimed were made by or supplied to the plant by the 55 defendants originally named in the suit. After the case was removed to federal court and remanded, the defendants requested discovery from the plaintiffs by various means, most of which the plaintiffs simply ignored. Eventually, most of the plaintiffs produced some information regarding their claimed injuries and the possibly causative chemicals, but almost none of the information was specific enough to be meaningful. For example, in response to the following interrogatory -

 
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