Friday, December 07, 2007

2007-12-07 Printout of Metadata Held Sufficient for Discovery Purposes

The Sedona Principles' blanket approach to most metadata as "irrelevant" was adopted in Williams v. Sprint/United Management Co., 230 F.R.D. 640, 646 (D.Kan.2005). The Sprint court embraced the Sedona argument that "[I]n most cases and for most documents, metadata does not provide relevant information." Williams v. Sprint, 230 F.R.D. at 651. The Sprint court also noted that "[e]merging standards of electronic discovery appear to articulate a general presumption against the production of metadata[.]"

The recent decision in Michigan First Credit Union v. Cumis Ins. Society, Inc., Slip Copy, 2007 WL 4098213 (E.D.Mich. 2007) follows the Sprint approach and represents yet another example of how the Sedona Conference's blanket pronouncement is susceptible to misinterpretation. Here, the Court found that a printout of email metadata was sufficient and denied a motion to compel production of native, or source data. Curiously, even though the data and time information contained in the metadata was considered relevant, the "unique identifier" data was not, and since all was "printed out" in a pdf, the Court ruled that no further relevant information could be gleaned from the native, or source data:

"This includes the date and time of the creation of the message file, as well as a long string of characters that serves as a unique identifier for each message." She further states that she has reviewed the screen-shots of the email message produced for Plaintiff, and that "[a]ll metadata pertaining to the individual messages, except for the unique identifier referred to in the above paragraph is visible on these printouts." Hence, except for an "identifier" that would have no evidentiary value, the relevant metadata (such as date and time of creation) appears in the PDF copy. Were this not the case, there would be value in producing the metadata. However, since the PDF copies contain all the relevant information that Plaintiff would otherwise glean from the metadata, I agree with Defendant that producing the metadata for the emails would be unduly burdensome." Ibid, at *2.

Of course, no challenge to the metadata itself was apparently made. Imo, this is a clarion call not only to have the Sedona Principles properly reflect digital litigation reality, but also for counsel to bring themselves up to speed, and understand what it is they must challenge, or defend. Knowing what to ask for, and why, is a good start. The flip side is that being uninformed or misinformed as to the importance of metadata will at this time be more likely to result in this type of "gotcha."

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