A very small thing called “metadata” is getting bigger, at least in legal significance.
Attorneys said that lawsuits demanding the production of metadata -- the digital DNA of a document that can prove who created it, when and who may have altered it over time -- have increased in recent years. And courts are honoring many of those requests when they are made early on, and relevance is shown.
Most recently, a federal judge in New York ruled that companies need to be ready to produce metadata in litigation, holding that metadata associated with e-mails and electronic files must be preserved, maintained and produced in the course of legal discovery, particularly when sought early.
The case, Aguilar v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Div., was a class action alleging unlawful searches and seizures of immigrants’ homes, in which a discovery dispute arose regarding the production of metadata.
“There is a pattern that has developed in these cases that suggests that, when a party requests metadata early on in the e-discovery process, they’re usually going to get it,” said New York partner Wayne Matus, co-national head of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman‘s electronic discovery practice.
Melissa Geist, Reed Smith‘s director of complex litigation electronic discovery from the Princeton, N.J., office, agreed. “That [New York] case is consistent with a clear pattern that we’re seeing,” Geist said. “There is a trend by parties to seek metadata, and right now what we’re seeing typically is courts are ordering the production of metadata when it’s sought early on in the case.”
Geist said that, although metadata may be critical under some circumstances, her law firm routinely opposes plaintiffs’ requests for metadata, calling them “overly broad and burdensome requests” and “completely irrelevant” in some cases.
“In some ways, it’s a fishing expedition,” Geist said.
Many courts, however, have a different view.
In a Florida products liability case involving the drug Seroquel (In re Seroquel Prods. Liab. Litig.), a federal court in 2007 ordered specific metadata fields to be produced in a multidistrict action by 6,500 plaintiffs who claimed that the antipsychotic drug caused various illnesses.To Continue Reading: Click Here
By: TRESA BALDAS