Court Orders Defendants to Disclose ESI Storage and Maintenance Practices
In McKinney/Pearl Restaurant Partners, L.P. v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, et. al., Case No. 14-2498 (N.D. Tex., Jan. 8, 2016), Plaintiff, a restaurant, sued Defendants for breach of lease obligations. During discovery, Plaintiff served multiple sets of discovery requests upon Defendants and filed a Motion to Compel asserting that Defendants’ responses were boilerplate and nonresponsive. Plaintiff’s Motion further stated that Defendants had refused to produce ESI and metadata and that they had improperly redacted certain information. Plaintiffs sought leave to engage in computer imaging to obtain the ESI with metadata.
The court observed that although a party seeking to compel production has the burden to establish the relevance of the documents sought and must comply with Rule 36’s proportionality limits, the party refusing to produce discovery also has a burden to show that the requested items do not fall within Rule 26’s relevance requirements or that there is undue burden or expense.
The court granted the motion in part and denied it in part, ordering Defendants to produce certain documents in electronic format with associated metadata, but ordering that as to some of the requests, Defendants had already produced the only relevant documents. As to Plaintiff’s complaint that Defendants had failed to produce in native format and relevant metadata, the court denied the motion. Defendants asserted that they had produced documents as they were kept in the ordinary course of business, and the court found that they did not violate Rule 34 when they did not forensically copy the documents produced. The court found that ordering computer imaging requires a “very particular showing,” which did not occur here. The court did order Defendants to provide Plaintiff with information about where their ESI was kept and how it was stored.