In a low-dollar-value civil rights suit, public value of accessing ESI might supersede monetary burden, federal court holds

rbr_modifiedOn July 21, 2016, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, determined that in a low-dollar-value civil rights suit, the public value of allowing the opportunity to access relevant information far outweighs the asserted cost to retrieve such data.

In this employment discrimination case, the Parties disagreed over “whether [electronically stored information] ESI should be produced in native format or PDF format”. Plaintiff requested production in native format, with metadata intact, to verify that the documents had not been tampered with.

Defendant estimated that the cost to produce potentially relevant ESI in native format would be of approximately $3,000. Defendant argued the cost to be unreasonable considering the low value of the case.

The Court found in favor of Plaintiff. According to FRCP 26(b)(2)(b), the Party from whom discovery is sought must “show that the information is not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost”.

Defendant never offered an explanation as to why native production would cost more than pdf production while Plaintiff showed good cause to order production.

Additionally, the Court noted that “while it does appear that Plaintiff’s suit is unlikely to be of an especially high dollar value, the Court finds that the public value of allowing a civil-rights plaintiff opportunity to access information relevant and quite possibly necessary to her pregnancy-discrimination suit far outweighs the asserted $3,000 cost”.

Mitchell v. Reliable Sec., LLC, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76128 (N.D. Ga. May 23, 2016) can be downloaded with subscription at Lexis Nexis                        Open Pdf

For more information, Francesca Giannoni-Crystal

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