Does An Alleged Document Dump Comply with FRCP 34(b)?
The plaintiff in Lutzeier v. Citigroup, Inc., Case No. 4:14-cv-00183-RLW (E.D. Mo. Feb. 2, 2015) received an alleged “document dump” by Defendant Citigroup comprised of 46,217 documents, none of which Defendant had organized or labeled as responsive to Plaintiff’s 58 requests for production. Plaintiff also asserted that Defendant had not produced the data in the manner usually kept in the course of business.
Plaintiff moved to compel, alleging that the defense “document dump” did not comply with FRCP 34(b). Defendant acknowledged that it had not organized or labeled the production by document request or produced it in the manner kept in the usual course of business but stated that the production complied with FRCP 34(b) because it was “reasonably usable,” noting that the production was fully searchable by keyword and had accompanying metadata fields, including custodians, recipients, dates and other key information.
The court looked to FRCP 34(b)(2)(E)(ii), which states that absent an agreement or stipulation, electronic data can be produced in either the usual course of business or in a reasonably usable form. For guidance on whether Defendant complied with the rule’s requirements, the court looked to the recent Northern District of California decision Ventura Corp. Ltd. v. Barrett, No. 5:13-CV-03384-PSG, 2014 WL 5305575, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 16, 2014) interpreting the FRCP 34’s requirements and to the District of Colorado’s Natl’l Jewish Health v. WebMD Health Services Grp., 2014 WL 2118585 (D. Colo. May 21, 2014), where the court held that even if a party requests production in native file format, a production of PDF or TIFF format accompanied by load files with searchable text and metadata complied with FRCP 34(b)’s “reasonably usable form” option. Based on these decisions and the plain language of FRCP 34, the court concluded that Defendant’s production of searchable text and sortable metadata fields complied with FRCP 34 and denied Plaintiff’s motion to compel.