Is this Plaintiff Entitled to Source Documents Regarding Financial Data in Spreadsheets?
In Coll v. Stryker, No 14-cv-1089KG/SMV, D. New Mexico, July 12, 2017, Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim alleged that Defendants owed him certain amounts of profits earned from three product lines. As part of the discovery process, Defendants produced electronic data in spreadsheets, which demonstrated revenues, expense and profits from the product lines in question. Plaintiff requested additional documentation, including the source documents that contained the information which had been input into the spreadsheets.
Defendants objected to this further request, arguing that the discovery would be so voluminous that producing it would be an undue burden. They also contended there was no need for the information, as the spreadsheets showed “expansive financial details” and Plaintiff was scheduled to take depositions of corporate representatives that could answer questions about the methodologies regarding the profit calculation.
The court looked to the standard set out in FRCP 26(b): does the purported benefit of the requested discovery outweigh its burden or cost? It further reviewed the various factors that courts are obliged to consider: (1) the specificity of the request, (2) the availability of the information from other sources, (3) the likelihood of finding relevant information, (4) the importance and usefulness of the information, (5) the issues at stake in the litigation and (5) the parties’ relative resources.
Considering those factors, the court found Plaintiff’s request for the source documents to be premature. It noted that Plaintiff had recourse to further investigate the integrity of the spreadsheets: Defendants offered Plaintiff access to its database where the source documents were located, the corporate representatives could be questioned in depositions, and Plaintiff could also seek tax returns and SEC filings. The court concluded that if those lines of inquiry showed the spreadsheets were inaccurate, then in the future, Plaintiff may be entitled to the source documents at that time.