eDiscovery Daily Blog

Court Orders Defendant to Re-Produce Selected Documents in Native Format: eDiscovery Case Law

In Spring v. Board of Trustees of Cape Fear Community College et. al., No. 7:15-CV-84-BO (E.D. N.C., Apr. 7, 2016), North Carolina Magistrate Judge James E. Gates, in ruling on several discovery disputes between the parties, granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel in part, ordering the plaintiff to identify documents to be re-produced in native format and for the defendant to re-produce those documents or move for appropriate relief after conferring with plaintiff if it deemed the number of documents identified to be unjustifiably large.

Case Background

In this breach of contract case over a forced resignation, the court entered a scheduling order in August 2015, adopting the parties’ proposed discovery plan which provided that “the requesting party is entitled to have electronic files produced in `native’ format, with accompanying metadata, upon request.”  After the defendant produced documents in response to the plaintiff’s requests for production, the plaintiff sent a letter to defendants’ counsel in December 2015 addressing perceived deficiencies in the defendant’s production.  The defendant produced some supplemental documents, but the plaintiff contended that the defendant’s production was still incomplete.  The plaintiff filed a motion to compel in February 2016, seeking further production, as well as re-production of the originally produced documents in native format.

Judge’s Ruling

After addressing the various requests for further production, allowing in part and denying in part the plaintiff’s requests, Judge Gates turned to the plaintiff’s request for production of electronically stored information in its native format, as stated in the terms of the discovery plan adopted by the Scheduling Order.  While the defendant’s initial production of 2,576 pages was not in native format, the defendant noted that, at the time, the plaintiff did not object to the non-native format of the production.  Since the time plaintiff raised the issue, the defendant stated that it had produced 2,084 documents in native format with metadata and offered to re-produce in native format with metadata specific documents identified by the plaintiff, but objected to re-producing all prior non-native format production.

Judge Gates stated:

“The court agrees with the Board that re-production of all documents at this point would be unduly burdensome. If there are documents, or categories of documents, for which plaintiff requests re-production in native form with metadata, plaintiff shall provide such identification to the Board as soon as practicable, but in no event later than 15 April 2016. The Board shall re-produce in native format with metadata the documents identified as soon as practicable, but in no event later than 28 April 2016, provided that the Board may move by that date pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7.1(c), E.D.N.C. for appropriate relief after conferring with plaintiff if it deems the number of documents identified to be unjustifiably large. The portion of plaintiff’s motion to compel seeking re-production of the documents sought is accordingly ALLOWED IN PART and DENIED IN PART on the foregoing terms.”

So, what do you think?  Considering that it was agreed to in the discovery plan, should the judge have ordered all documents to be re-produced in native format?  Or was the order to re-produce selected documents sufficient?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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