Searchable PDF Production with Metadata Complies with FRCP 34
In Spilker v. Medtronic, Inc., No. 4:13-CV-76-H (E.D.N.C. Apr. 13, 2015), the Eastern District of North Carolina considered whether Defendants’ “document dump” complied with FRCP 34.
Plaintiff filed a motion to compel, alleging that Defendants had engaged in a “document dump” that did not comply with FRCP 34. Plaintiff asserted that Defendants had failed to produce the documents by subject matter, topic, or any other categorization, and had in some instances produced documents in an illogical order (e.g., producing production volume number 1 after production volume number 25).
Defendants opposed the motion, stating that they produced the documents as they maintained them in the usual course of business. Additionally, Defendants asserted that they had produced the documents in searchable PDF format, as Plaintiff had requested, and had organized them in folders by custodian with searchable metadata fields. Defendants also offered to provide Plaintiff with an overlay file that matched the original file folder path information with the corresponding Bates number.
FRCP 34(b)(2)(E)(i) allows a party to produce documents as they are kept in the usual course of business or, alternatively, to organize and label them to correspond to the production request categories. Documents produced in the usual course of business do not have to be organized and labeled, provided that the producing party reveals information about where the documents were maintained, who maintained them, and whether the documents came from one single source multiple sources. The producing party bears the burden of proving its compliance with FRCP 34.
The court reviewed the production and Defendants’ assertions regarding the production format, and concluded that Defendants had, in fact, complied with FRCP 34 by producing fully searchable documents with metadata, in a folder structure organized by custodian. The court also observed that Plaintiff had not yet taken any steps to review the ESI production, nor had it asserted that the production was not fully searchable utilizing the metadata fields.