Motion Regarding Lack of Metadata and Incomplete Email Threads Denied For Lack of Specificity

11 Feb 2022

In RAINS v. WESTMINSTER COLLEGE and KOERNER, No. 2:20-cv-00520 (D. Utah Feb. 1 2022), before the Court was Plaintiff’s Short Form Motion to Compel and/or for Sanctions for Spoliation.

The case arose from Plaintiff’s allegations that she was wrongfully terminated from a faculty position by her former employer.  Plaintiff moved to compel and/or for sanctions on several grounds including that documents responsive to her discovery requests either exist but were not produced or were destroyed by Defendants in violation of Defendants’ duty to preserve documents relating to her termination and internal investigations, as well as that Defendants failed to produce metadata and produced incomplete email threads without attachments.  

The Court specifically addressed Plaintiff’s RFP 20 which sought “the letter received by the College between October 2018 and December 2019 alleging misconduct by Bethami Dobkin and all documents and communications related to this letter (including any investigations conducted by the College in response to this letter).” 

Defendants did not object to the RFP but claimed that they “have not identified or located any such documents.”  In support, Defendants submitted a declaration from one of its employees who coordinated the search for the documents, stating that despite searching, Defendants did not identify documents responsive to RFP 20.

However, the Court found that the employee’s description of the search for documents was too vague to permit the Court to determine whether a diligent search was conduct.  Accordingly, Plaintiff’s motion to compel as to RFP 20 was granted.  

With respect to the issue of lack of metadata and incomplete email threads, Plaintiff’s discovery requests defined the word “documents” to include a request for metadata. Defendants did not contest that request, but instead argued that all the metadata had been provided already. Defendants contended that they “have produced all emails in their possession and have not destroyed or failed to preserve any.”

However, the Court found that since Plaintiff did not adequately identify which of the documents produced by Defendants lacked metadata or contained incomplete email threats, her motion on those issues was denied without prejudice.  Defendants were ordered to search for and produce additional documents and if Plaintiff determined that Defendants still failed to produce metadata and incomplete email threads, she could file a new motion to compel. 

Finally, on the issue of spoliation, the Court held that Plaintiff had not demonstrated, at that stage at least, that Defendants engaged in spoliation.  If after supplemental production, Plaintiff believed that spoliation occurred, she could file a new motion.