Court Denies Request for Native Files After Party First Accepts Production in PDF Format
to In Davenport et al. v. Charter Communications, LLC, Case No. 4:12CV0007 AGF (E.D. Mo. March 20, 2015), a conditionally certified class action regarding unpaid wages, the Eastern District of Missouri considered whether Defendant must reproduce its searchable PDF document production in “computer readable” format.
The court’s joint discovery order permitted the parties to produce their ESI in either PDF or TIFF format. The order also stated that the parties could request disclosure of native files or metadata for good cause. The court noted that “good cause” might include a disputed document creation date, an unreadable document, or a PDF image that failed to capture all the data in a document (e.g., multiple columns in an Excel spreadsheet.)
Defendant produced time clock records for the first 13 plaintiffs in searchable PDF format, which Plaintiff accepted without rejection. After the court conditionally certified the class, Defendant produced the time clock records for the additional plaintiffs in the class. After receipt of the second production, Plaintiff requested that Defendant reproduce the documents in native format or some other format that Plaintiffs’ counsel could sort, export, and manipulated. Plaintiffs argued that having to manually sort and reenter the time clock records would take great time and difficulty, and that this constituted good cause sufficient to have Defendant reproduce the documents again in native format.
The court denied Plaintiffs request, holding that Plaintiff’s own ease and convenience did not constitute good cause sufficient to justify ordering Defendant to reproduce the documents, particularly when Plaintiffs had accepted PDF formatting with the initial production. The court also noted that Plaintiffs could have requested native file production from the outset of the case, but did not. The court denied Plaintiff’s motion to compel, but ordered that Plaintiff could get the format if they reimbursed Defendant for the cost of re-producing the documents. This case offers yet another example of the importance for Plaintiff’s counsel to request desired production format at the outset of a case.