(a) Consolidation of two or more related cases, involving either the same injured employee or multiple injured employees, rests in the sound discretion of the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board. In exercising that discretion, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board shall take into consideration any relevant factors, including but not limited to the following:
(1) whether there are common issues of fact or law;
(2) the complexity of the issues involved;
(3) the potential prejudice to any party, including but not limited to whether granting consolidation would significantly delay the trial of any of the cases involved;
(4) the avoidance of duplicate or inconsistent orders; and
(5) the efficient utilization of judicial resources.
(b) Consolidation may be ordered by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board on its own motion, or may be ordered based upon a petition filed by one of the parties. A petition to consolidate shall:
(1) List all named parties in each case;
(2) Contain the adjudication case numbers of all the cases sought to be consolidated, with the lowest numbered case shown first;
(3) Be filed in each case sought to be consolidated; and
(4) Be served on all attorneys or other representatives of record and on all non-represented parties in each case sought to be consolidated.
(c) Any order regarding consolidation shall be filed in each case to which the order relates.
(d) If consolidation is ordered, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, in its discretion, may designate one case as the master file for exhibits and pleadings. If a master file is designated, any subsequent exhibits and pleadings filed by the parties and lien claimants during the period of consolidation shall be filed only in the master case, however, all pleadings and exhibit cover sheets filed shall include the caption and case number of the master file case, followed by the case numbers of all of the other consolidated cases.
(e) If a master file has been designated and the consolidated cases are tried, all relevant documentary evidence previously received in an individual case shall be deemed admitted in evidence in the consolidated proceedings under the master file and shall be deemed part of the record of each of the several consolidated cases. Evidence received subsequent to the designation of the master file shall be similarly received with like force and effect.
(f) When cases are consolidated, joint minutes of hearing, summaries of evidence, opinions, decisions, orders, findings, or awards may be used, however, copies shall be filed in the record of proceedings of each case.