Monday, October 24, 2005

D. Kan. Looks to Sedona Principles and Proposed Amendment to Hold that Metadata Presumptively Must Be Produced

The district court in Williams v. Sprint/United Management Co., 230 F.R.D. 640 (D. Kan. Sep. 29, 2005) has held that there is a presumption that producing parties should present electronic data with their metadata in tact. Looking to the Sedona Principles and the Proposed Amendment to FRCP Rule 34, the court added that parties could object to the production of metadata, presumably on relevance, confidentiality or privilege grounds:

The narrow issue currently before the Court is whether, under emerging standards of electronic discovery, the Court's Order directing Defendant to produce electronic spreadsheets as they are kept in the ordinary course of business requires Defendant to produce those documents with the metadata intact. As noted above, the Court finds insufficient guidance in either the federal rules or case law, and thus relies primarily on the Sedona Conference Principles and comments for guidance on the emerging standards of electronic document production, specifically with regard to metadata. While recognizing that the Sedona Principles and comments are only persuasive authority and are not binding, the Court finds the Sedona Principles and comments particularly instructive in how the Court should address the electronic discovery issue currently before it.

Comment 9.a. to the Sedona Principles for Electronic Document Production approaches discoverability based on what constitutes a "document" under Rule 34. This comment uses viewability as the determining factor in whether something should be presumptively treated as a part of a "document." Using viewability as the standard, all metadata ordinarily visible to the user of the Excel spreadsheet application should presumptively be treated as part of the "document" and should thus be discoverable. For spreadsheet applications, the user ordinarily would be able to view the contents of the cells on the spreadsheets, and thus the contents of those cells would be discoverable.

In light of the proposed amendment to Rule 34, which adds "electronically stored information" as its own separate category, it is no longer necessary to focus on what constitutes a "document." With regard to metadata in general, the Court looks to Principle 12 and Comment 12.a. to the Sedona Principles. Based upon this Principle and Comment, emerging standards of electronic discovery appear to articulate a general presumption against the production of metadata, but provide a clear caveat when the producing party is aware or should be reasonably aware that particular metadata is relevant to the dispute. Based on these emerging standards, the Court holds that when a party is ordered to produce electronic documents as they are maintained in the ordinary course of business, the producing party should produce the electronic documents with their metadata intact, unless that party timely objects to production of metadata, the parties agree that the metadata should not be produced, or the producing party requests a protective order.


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