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Pro Se Plaintiff Seeks Native ESI Format, Metadata, and Index

Posted on March 7th, 2016

The pro se Plaintiff in Stormo v. City of Sioux Falls, et. al., Case No. 12-04057 (D. S.D., Feb. 19, 2016) sued Defendants for violations of his civil rights with respect to his personal property. The court granted summary judgment in part to Defendants, and Plaintiff amended his complaint to add new claims. Throughout the case, discovery disputes were rampant, with Plaintiff filing numerous motions and making “unrelated, irrelevant, or indecipherable” arguments therein, and with Defendant failing to adequately respond to Plaintiff’s discovery requests or the court’s orders. Plaintiff then filed several more motions, including a motion to compel production of certain ESI in native format, with metadata, and an index “explaining information” about the documents.

The court looked at FRCP 34(b)(2)(E), which provides that ESI must be produced as it is kept in the ordinary course of business, or the party producing must organize and label the documents to correspond with categories in the request. If the request specifies no form for producing ESI, the party must produce the ESI in the form in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably usable format.

The court held that, although Plaintiff requested native format, he did not sufficiently explain why the format Defendants used to produce the ESI was incorrect, and thus it denied the motion with regard to the native format request.

With regard to metadata, Plaintiff argued that he needed it to determine whether the data had been modified, when it had been created, and whether it had been accessed. Defendants argued that they had no system for tracking the metadata, and thus they would have to go through each document to retrieve it. Defendants previously objected to the request, but they did not state a real reason for the objection other than “overly burdensome.” Despite Defendants’ response, the court denied the request for metadata, stating that Plaintiff did not demonstrate the metadata’s relevance to his claims, nor did he offer any evidence to support his suspicion that Defendants had altered or deleted data.

Finally, the court granted Plaintiff’s request for an index. Defendants asserted that they produced their documents in an organized fashion and in the form ordinarily kept, but the court found that they did not explain how their production complied with FRCP 34. The court found that Plaintiff’s request was reasonable, and ordered Defendants to produce the index.

ILS – Plaintiff Electronic Discovery Experts

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