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Athome Care, Inc. v. Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

April 30, 2013

ATHOME CARE, INC., an Idaho corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN GOOD SAMARITAN SOCIETY, a North Dakota corporation, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

B. LYNN WINMILL, Chief District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

The Court has before it Plaintiff AtHome Care's Motion to Compel the Production of Documents (Dkt. 34).

BACKGROUND

AtHome Care ("AtHome") is an Idaho corporation providing private duty home care. Compl. § 1, Dkt. 1-3. The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society ("Good Samaritan") is a North Dakota corporation headquarted in South Dakota. Id. at § 2. Good Samaritan provides health services and homes for qualifying individuals in approximately 240 locations across the United States, including four facilities in Idaho. Id.

In June 2009, the parties entered into a written agreement to create a private duty home care pilot project. The pilot project allowed Good Samaritan to use AtHome's propriety information for providing private duty home care at the pilot location. Id. at §§ 7-8. While the agreement stated that Good Samaritan was only allowed to use the proprietary information at the pilot location, AtHome contends that Good Samaritan used the proprietary materials at other locations in violation of the agreement. Id. at §§ 12-13.

After the parties failed to resolve some of their discovery disputes through meet and confers and informal mediation with the Court's staff, AtHome filed the pending motion to compel.

LEGAL STANDARD

The Court may order the "discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) (1). Relevant evidence is any evidence tending to make the existence of any consequential fact "more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence." Federal Rule of Evidence 401. Although viewed in light of Rule 401, "the question of relevancy is to be more loosely construed at the discovery stage than at the trial...." See 8 Wright, Miller, and Marcus, Federal Practice & Procedure, § 2008 at p. 125 (2010). That the evidence might be inadmissible does not preclude discovery so long as the request "appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed.R. Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

Although metadata is not addressed directly in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, it is subject to the same general rules of discovery. Aguilar v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Div. of U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, 255 F.R.D. 350, 357 *S.D.N.Y. 2008). That means the discovery of metadata is also subject to the balancing test of Rule 26(b)(2)(C), which requires courts to weigh the probative value of proposed discovery against its potential burden. Id. at 355.

Courts typically order the production of metadata when it is sought in the initial document request and the producing party has not yet produced the documents in any form. Id. at 357 (Internal citations omitted). Moreover, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Sedona Principles, and case law emphasize that electronic discovery should be a party-driven process. Id. at 358.

Here, there is some dispute about whether AtHome initially requested metadata, including some disagreement over whether its request for electronic discovery in native form required production of metadata. However, there is no dispute that Good Samaritan essentially agreed to produce metadata, and would have produced the requested metadata but for an inadvertent change to the creation date on certain documents. Thus, the real question before the Court at this point is how to resolve that mistake, which essentially requires the Court to apply the Rule 26(b)(2)(C) balancing test.

ANALYSIS

AtHome asks the Court to order Good Samaritan provide it with the system metadata for what the parties have identified as the "at issue documents, " which apparently are documents relating to the models Good Samaritan created to provide private duty home care. "System metadata reflects information created by the user or by the organization's information management system." Aguilar, 255 F.R.D. at 354 (citing Sedona Principles 2d Cmt. 12a.) This type of metadata can generally be retrieved from whatever operating system is in use. Id. Examples include "data concerning the author, date and time of creation, and the date a document was modified." Id. System metadata may be relevant "if the authenticity of ...


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