What Is the Preferable Format of Document Production?
The format in which electronically stored information (ESI) is produced during discovery is an issue of central important in plaintiffs’ ESI production because of the compounded effects that it can have on litigation. In Al-Daiwa, LTD, v. Apparent, Inc., et al., No. C 13-04156 VC (LB) (N.D. Cal. July 28, 2014), the court sought to remedy multiple ESI issues.
Plaintiffs filed a breach of contract suit against Defendants for their failure to pay for products that Defendants had acquired from Plaintiffs. Discovery disputes concerning the production of ESI quickly arose, among other issues.
Plaintiff’s cited numerous problems with Defendant’s ESI production:
1. Self-collecting of ESI by custodians;
2. No privilege log;
3. Non-Native file production for files kept that way and missing metadata;
4. Modification of some documents;
5. No production numbers;
6. No confidentiality designations; and
7. No use of a competent vendor.
Defendants agreed to re-produce all documents addressing the identification of the documents and produce any redacted documents in hard copy, along with providing a privilege log.
The court went on to state:
1. Generally documents should be produced electronically;
2. Processed ESI that contains relevant metadata should always be produced in its native format;
3. Native file production is generally better than paper production; and
4. Redaction of personal information is acceptable, but information in spreadsheets can readily be collapsed to avoid disclosure and save on costs.
In lieu of Defendants’ agreement to re-produce the documents, the court ordered the parties to meet and confer if the re-produced documents did not allow Plaintiffs adequate insight.