Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Electronic Discovery — Sweeping Requests for Metadata as a Waste of Time and Money

From Dahl v. Bain Capital Partners, LLC, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52551, at *7 (D. Mass. June 22, 2009):

The court's concern over the goal of discovery is also relevant to the parties' dispute over metadata.... [T]he court believes the parties must be concerned with uncovering admissible evidence. The Shareholders seek all of the metadata associated with emails and word documents produced by the PE Firms. The PE Firms refuse to produce all metadata and instead offer to provide 12 fields of metadata. The court rules in favor of the PE Firms for two reasons. First, case law shows wariness about metadata's value in litigation. Many courts have expressed reservations about the utility of metadata, explaining that it does not lead to admissible evidence and that it can waste parties' time and money. Wyeth v. Impax Labs., Inc., 248 F.R.D. 169, 171 (D. Del. 2006); Williams v. Sprint/United Mgmt. Co. , 230 F.R.D. 640, 651 (D. Kan. 2005). Second, Rule 34 militates against the broad, open disclosure of metadata that the Shareholders seek. The Rule 34 Advisory Committee Notes to the 2006 Amendment express concern that producing diverse types of electronically stored information in the same format would be costly, burdensome, and ultimately fruitless. Fed. R. Civ. P. 34 advisory committee's notes. Instead, the notes explain that requests should be tailored to each type of program, so only necessary data is produced.

The court applies this principle to the metadata re-quests here. Rather than a sweeping request for metadata, the Shareholders should tailor their requests to specific word documents, specific emails or specific sets of email.... This more focused approach will, the court hopes, reduce the parties' costs and work. Furthermore, it reflects the general uneasiness that courts hold over metadata's contribution in assuring prudent and efficient litigation.

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