(a) The hearing officer may order a joint hearing of any matters at issue in contested cases involving common questions of law or fact or multiple proceedings involving the same or related parties, or may order the cases consolidated or make other orders to reduce costs or delay in the proceedings.

(b) A party requesting consolidation shall serve a petition for consolidation on all parties to the cases to be consolidated and shall file the original with the hearing officer, together with a certificate of service showing service on all parties as herein required. Any party objecting to the petition shall serve and file his objections within 10 days after service of the petition for consolidation.

(c) Upon determining whether cases should be consolidated, the hearing officer shall serve a written order on all parties that contains a description of the cases for consolidation and the reasons for the decision.

(d) Nothing contained in this Rule prohibits the parties from stipulating and agreeing to a consolidation, which shall be granted upon submittal of a written stipulation, signed by every party, to the hearing officer.

(e) Following receipt of a notice of or order for consolidation, any party may petition for severance by serving it on all other parties and filing with the hearing officer at least seven days before the first scheduled hearing date. If the hearing officer finds that the consolidation will prejudice any party, he shall order the severance or other relief that will prevent the prejudice from occurring.

(Authority G.S. 58-2-40(1); 58-2-50; 58-2-55; 58-2-70; 150B-38(h); Eff. July 1, 1992.)

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