Plaintiff Ordered to Produce Emails in TIFF Format with Metadata from Original Sources
In Singh et. al. v. Hancock Natural Resources Group, Inc. et. al., Case No. 15-1435 (E.D. Cal., Dec. 29, 2016), a breach of contract action arising out of an agreement to sell 2,470 acres of farmland, Defendants requested emails from Plaintiffs in TIFF format with metadata. Plaintiffs produced some of the emails in TIFF format, but only after forwarding them to Plaintiffs’ former counsel.
Defendants asserted that as a result of the forwarding, the metadata was “useless and irrelevant” because the metadata was that of the forwarded versions of the emails and not the original version. Defendants sought the metadata because it argued that Plaintiffs appeared to have changed certain emails based upon copies submitted by certain recipients, with text either “whited out” or changed. For example, Defendants pointed to an email from one of their representatives regarding a document associated with the sale. In Plaintiffs’ version, the email says of the document “It’s Acceptable.” In Defendants’ version, that language is not present. That same email was produced in two other formats containing other additional content in Plaintiffs’ version that is not in Defendants’ version, which Defendants proved by showing its own metadata. Plaintiffs’ only argument was that their new counsel was inexperienced with discovery and was “working with a computer specialist to correct the problem.” The court ordered the original emails produced with metadata.
Defendants also received a TIFF version of an email that related directly to one of the allegations in the Complaint, namely, that the email had been sent. However, the email was not provided with metadata as requested by Defendants, and whether the attachments were included was unclear; it appeared that the attachment was a draft, unsigned version of the sale agreement, when what Defendants sought was actually an email attaching the executed agreement. The court ordered additional production to resolve that issue.