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D’Onofrio v. SFX Sports Group, Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant. Plaintiff requested Defendant to produce certain documents, such as their business plan. Defendant provided Plaintiff with the business plan, but not in the original form and without the metadata. Plaintiff motioned to compel Defendant to provide the original format, including the metadata. Defendant objects.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    When a party does not specifically instruct another party to provide electronically stored information in its original format, including he metadata, the former is not required to provide such a format under FRCP 34.

    Facts.

    Plaintiff, Audrey D’Onofrio, initiated this action against her employer, SFX Sports Group, Inc. (SFX), Defendant, on the grounds that Defendant allegedly discriminated against her based on gender and wrongfully terminated Plaintiff, violating of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, and the District of Columbia Family Medical Leave Act. Throughout discovery, Plaintiff requested Defendant to produce its business plan by stating documents that are “stored or maintained in the normal course of business.” Plaintiff wanted this produced to fully preserve and identify the files where the documents were kept. Defendant produced the business plan, but the business plan was not in its original format. Plaintiff motioned to compel Defendant to produce the business plan in the original format, including the metadata. Further, Plaintiff contends that Defendant is solely allowed to provide document sin a format, other than the original, “if necessary,” under FRCP 34. Defendant, however, claims that Plaintiff did not request a specific format in the request for production, the FRCP does not require a specific format, and Plaintiff never indicated that metadata was important to the case at hand.  

    Issue.

    Whether a party, who has not specifically been instructed by another party to provide electronically stored information in its original format, including he metadata, is required to provide the former such a format under FRCP 34.

    Held.

    No, a party, who has not specifically been instructed by another party to provide electronically stored information in its original format, including he metadata, is not required to provide the former such a format under FRCP 34.

    Discussion.

    Under FRCP 34, a party may request the other party to produce documents or electronically stored information in “any medium from which information can be obtained either directly or, if necessary, after translation by the responding party into a reasonably usable form.” Thus, electronic information is only discoverable when it is stored in a directly obtainable medium. The application of this rule results in a limitation of the scope of the request, not amount of production the responding party is responsible for. Further, the formatting and translating of electronic information into another format results in an additional burden that the responding party is not responsible for, absent a necessity. Moreover, FRCP 34 allows a party to request the production of electronic information a specific format. In this case, Plaintiff misinterprets the FRCP 34 to imply that electronic information can solely be produced in the original format except when it is necessary to produce it in another format. Plaintiff claims her instruction to produce the documents in a manner to preserve and identify the file from which it came implies and mandates the Defendant to produce the information n the original format, including the metadata. The court notes that Plaintiff’s statement is regarding the physical documents that Defendant is required to produce, not electronic ones. Plaintiff fails to note that her instructions could be interpreted to mean that Defendant must either produce the electronic file itself or provide the document in a manner that would result in a preservation of the files identity, such as where it was stored, but the statement is unclear as to the context of the electronic file. Therefore, Plaintiff did not truly request Defendant to provide the information in the original format with metadata. Plaintiff’s motion to compel is denied.  


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