Court Declines to Order Production of Metadata Where Request for Production Did Not Specify Production in Original Format, and Orders Evidentiary Hearing on Spoliation Allegations
D'Onofrio v. SFX Sports Group, Inc., 247 F.R.D. 43 (D.D.C. 2008)
In this contentious employment discrimination case, Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola resolved a number of discovery disputes relating to the production of electronically stored information.
Among other relief, plaintiff sought the production of a certain business plan in its original electronic format, with accompanying metadata. Plaintiff argued that Fed. R. Civ. P. 34 permits the production of documents outside of their original format only "if necessary," and that in this case, there was no such necessity. Defendants responded that: (a) plaintiff did not request that the Business Plan or any other documents be produced in a specific format; (b) production in original electronic format with metadata is not required by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or in the absence of a clear agreement or court order, neither of which were present here; and (c) plaintiff had not demonstrated the relevance of the metadata.
The court rejected plaintiff’s interpretation of Rule 34:
Rule 34(a) does not set forth constraints on the manner of production, but instead establishes the permissible scope of a request. Consequently, the "if necessary" clause seized upon by plaintiff is actually a constraint on the requesting party rather than the responding party. In other words, electronic data is subject to discovery if it is stored in a directly obtainable medium. If, however, it is not stored in a directly obtainable medium, a request may be made of the responding party to translate the electronic data into a "reasonably usable form." Because the step of translating this type of electronic data adds an extra burden on the responding party, the request may only seek for it to be done "if [the translation is] necessary." It is not the case that this clause requires the responding party to produce data in its original form unless "necessary" to do otherwise.