Must a Party Provide Metadata When the Info is on the Face of the Document?
In Melian Labs Inc. v. Triology LLC, Case No. 13-cv-04791-SBA (KAW), N.D.Cal September 4, 2014, the parties entered into a discovery agreement pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 26(f). The agreement stated metadata need only be provided as part of the ESI to show the following fields:
- Dates sent and received
- Times sent and received
- To, From, CC, and BCC
- Email subject
Further, the parties agreed that electronic data could be tendered in paper, PDF or TIFF format, and other electronic files in native format when it is more practical to do so.
Plaintiff ESI was tendered and Defendant objected, claiming the PDF files were stripped of the metadata in violation of the agreed order, and that Excel spreadsheets were not produced in native file format. Defendant sought the emails and Excel spreadsheets to be produced in native format. Plaintiff countered that it had followed the Agreed Order when it provided the ESI in PDF format.
The court noted that Defendant’s complaint was “purely one of form,” and that Defendant was not complaining the production was incomplete. Although Defendant argued Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 34(b) required production in the usual course of business, the court pointed out the rule requires production in the usual course of business OR via agreement. Since there was a 26(f) Agreed Order, Rule 34(b) did not apply to the dispute.
The court noted that although the email communications were sent in PDF format (pursuant to the agreement,) all metadata that the agreement required was available on the face of every email in PDF form. Similarly, the court denied Defendant’s request that Excel files be tendered in native format as the agreement clearly stated that PDF file production was sufficient.