District Court Affirms No Native Format Production After Three Years of PDF Production
Wai Feng Trading Co., Ltd. et. al. v. Quick Fitting, Inc., Consolidated Case Nos. 13-056 and 13-033 (D. R.I., Sept. 30, 2016) arose when the parties sued each other over breaches of various agreements as well as theft of intellectual property, and the cases were consolidated. Discovery in the case was “tortuous”; in the end, the magistrate judge assigned to the case heard multiple discovery motions, including Defendant’s motion to compel production of certain “late-produced” emails and attachments in native or near-native format to enable Defendant “full and meaningful use” of such emails. The magistrate judge noted that the request for the emails did not specify what form the ESI should be produced as permitted under FRCP 34(b) and provided little justification for the native format requirement; therefore, she ruled that the searchable PDFs were sufficient, as they had been submitted without objection for over three years.
Defendant objected to the magistrate judge’s findings. The district judge provided that the standard for reviewing a magistrate judge’s decision is the “clearly erroneous” standard and that he must “refrain from second guessing” her pretrial discovery rulings. The court pointed out that a party disagreeing with the magistrate judge’s judgment calls is not sufficient to overturn the ruling. Here, the court found that Defendant did not point to any actual errors made by the magistrate judge. The court could not find that the magistrate judge’s decision regarding native format of the emails was clearly erroneous. The court found similarly for Defendant’s other objections and therefore overruled them all.
This case highlights the importance of seeking emails and other ESI in native format at the beginning of a case – a party who does so early on will likely not be required to justify the request later in the case.