(a) Consolidation. When actions involving a common question of law or fact are pending before the court, it may order a joint hearing or trial of any or all matters in issue in the action; it may order all the actions consolidated; and it may make such orders concerning proceedings therein as may tend to avoid unnecessary costs or delay.
(b) Separate Trials. The court, in furtherance of convenience or to avoid prejudice, or when separate trials will be conducive to expedition and economy, may order a separate trial of any claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or third-party claim, or of any separate issue or of any number of claims, cross-claims, counterclaims, third-party claims, or issues, always preserving inviolate the right of trial by jury as declared by the Constitution or as given by a statute of the State.
This Rule 42 is substantially identical with the Federal Rule. Rule 42(b) as to ordering separate trials is similar to State procedure, under Code § 15-27-20. Rule 42(a) as to consolidation of cases for trial is new to State procedure, but a valuable and needed addition. The parties and pleadings are not merged, and each action retains its own identity; but consolidation for trial can save much time and cost, as when all claims arise out of one auto accident, or several claims are based upon identical contracts.