Court-ordered Disclosure of Metadata Uncovers Falsified Document
Metadata, a.k.a. the “data about data,” provides an extremely useful source of electronic discovery information, and new cases every day demonstrate that courts increasingly recognize its relevancy as evidence.
In Tangible Value, LLC v. Town Sports International Holdings Inc., Civil Action No. 10-1453-MAS-TJB (D.N.J. November 19, 2014), the production of metadata irrevocably altered the landscape of the case. Plaintiff Tangible Value alleged an oral contract existed for software development. As part of its electronic data and discovery production, Plaintiff produced an invoice for $845,680.
Defendant Town Sports requested the metadata be produced from the invoice, but Plaintiff refused. In addition to the invoice, Defendant also sought metadata regarding emails sent between the company president and employees. In attempting to resolve the issue, the parties participated in numerous meet and confers, and the court entered numerous orders extending discovery deadlines.
After a hearing, the court ordered Plaintiff to produce the metadata. The metadata revealed that Plaintiff had in fact falsified the invoice, creating it “after the fact to justify a damage claim.” After this revelation, Plaintiff reduced its claim to $163,495, and Defendant filed a motion for contempt and sanctions.
The magistrate found that Defendant had been significantly prejudiced by the document falsification, and ordered that Plaintiff pay Defendants’ attorneys’ fees related to the motion practice, totaling over $100,000.
Did you know? Before the digital era, metadata was found in the card catalogues of libraries as a means of organizing archived information.