Texas Court of Appeals Upholds Order Compelling Native Format ESI Production

9 Nov 2015

The Court of Appeals of Texas recently affirmed an order compelling State Farm to produce records in native format. In In re State Farm Lloyds, Case No. 13-14-00616 (Tx. App. Ct., Oct. 28, 2015), the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court in the underlying action, which involved a homeowner’s insurance claim after a fire. In the underlying action, multiple disputes arose regarding ESI production format, eventually leading the plaintiffs to file a Motion to Compel production in native or near-native format, to which State Farm objected, arguing that the court should only require it to produce in a “reasonably usable” format. The trial court found for the plaintiffs, holding that the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure require production of electronically stored information in native format if requested. The trial court further held that if the party could not produce in native format, near-native format would be acceptable. State Farm filed a writ of mandamus.

The appellate court noted that the court must review the writ of mandamus for “clear abuse of discretion,” meaning that the reviewing court could not substitute its judgment for that of the trial court. The appellate court agreed with the trial court that the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure require production in native format if the requesting party sought native format initially and where native format was necessary and not available from other sources. Evidence before the trial court showed that it would have been cheaper and easier for State Farm to produce in native format. Further, the appellate court noted that State Farm produced no evidence of undue burden. The court also noted federal precedent stating that without metadata, some documents are not “reasonably usable.” Thus, the appellate court affirmed.

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