Defendants in a discovery dispute produced data from a timekeeping database as PDF’s.
The Plaintiffs objected, arguing their expert would need to spend 300 to 500 hours converting the PDF’s into a database.
The Defendants countered that it would take a team of three to four people between three to four days to write a script to convert their timekeeping export to a report in a .CVS format, because the system natively exported PDF’s as its reporting feature. Castillon v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17950, 9-10 (D. Idaho Feb. 7, 2014).
So, what is the proper form of production of the data?
The Court explained that the Plaintiffs did not state the form of production in their request. As such, the Defendant had to produce the ESI as it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably useable form pursuant to Rule 34. The Court found that the Defendant had “sufficiently shown that any report or other extraction of data from the Kronos system is natively produced in a searchable .pdf format. Because Defendant has already produced the Kronos data in that format, it is not required to re-produce it in a different form.” Castillon, at *9-10.
The Court further stated that searchable PDF’s is a reasonably useable form that could be “easily searched.” Castillon, at *10.
Bow Tie Thoughts
The Star Trek fan in me did not at all find it ironic that data from a timekeeping system named Kronos would end up in a discovery dispute, because it is after all the Klingon home world.
Geeks aside, it is very important to think about how you want to review data from a database when drafting a discovery request. What form will best help your expert? Has this issue been discussed at the meet & confer? Since a searchable database would likely benefit both parties if discussed at the Rule 26(f) conference, would both parties be willing to split the cost of preparing a script?
These issues are best resolved prior to motion practice. Litigation often has surprises such as this one. Finding out the format of database exports is a very important topic to add to a Rule 26(f) conference if you expect a database to be at issue in a case.