What is the Form of Production for a Database?


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.


2 thoughts on “What is the Form of Production for a Database?

  1. First, databases need to be discussed early in the case when parties are formalizing ESI stipulations and starting the M&C process. There needs to be a clear understanding of how the structured data is stored, maintained and backed up as well as the built in reporting/exporting functions. This is one of those areas that really should not be confrontational or things can go sideways very quickly resulting in increased costs for both parties and potential for an unhappy judge (discovery hint: that’s bad). I try to encourage both parties to define a protocol that ensures there is a sound preservation made of the database from a recent backup or export to revert to in case there are questions down the road. It’s not always practical, easy or useable to make a simply forensic copy of these types of data-stores so both parties need to agree to what makes the most sense. Its OK IMO to use the live database unless the it can be virtualized or stood up in a test environment (there can be a lot of extra costs here that can be unduly burdensome so be prepared for cost shifting/sharing if you need to go this route). Then, parties need to agree to a set of search strings and reporting and have experts from both parties be involved in the querying of the database and running of the reports so there is not a discovery dispute over the data in the reports. Audit logs of changes to the database should be readily available to show what happened as part of the litigation hold strategy. Both parties need to be flexible with each other and understand that there may be additional searches that need to be run and set discovery schedules accordingly. Also, testing of sample reports is useful early on so parties will know what comes out to gauge how well the reports will display in their discovery drug platform of choice.

    These are part of some database discovery strategies that I found effective – ymmv.

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