The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana recently compelled the production of spreadsheets in native format. In Apex Colors, Inc. v. Chemworld Int’l Ltd., No. 2:14-CV-273-PRC (N.D. Ind. June 16, 2016), the plaintiff Apex Colors, Inc. filed a second motion to compel defendant Chemworld Int’l Ltd. to respond to Apex’s discovery requests. Included with the typical motion to compel responses and production of documents was Apex’s request that the court compel Chemworld to produce spreadsheets in their native Excel format rather than that PDF format in which Chemworld had produced them.
The court looked to Federal Rule of Procedure 34(b)(2)(E)(i) and (iii) regarding the production of electronically stored information, which states that “[a] party must produce documents as they are kept in the ordinary course of business or must organize and label them to correspond to the categories of the request” and that “[i]f a request does not specify a form for producing electronically stored information, a party must produce it in a form or forms in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably useable form or forms.” Based on this rule, the court compelled the production of the spreadsheets in native format, finding that (1) Chemworld failed to object to the request that the spreadsheets be produced in native format in its initial responses to the discovery requests; (2) the PDF format in which Chemworld produced the spreadsheets was not searchable and was, therefore, not reasonably useable; and (3) Chemworld did not argue that it would be difficult to produce the spreadsheets in Excel format.
In addition to granting Apex’s motion to compel, the court awarded Apex its reasonable costs, including attorney fees, incurred for bringing the part of the motion related to the production of spreadsheets in native format, holding that Chemworld “offered no rationale for failing to provide spreadsheets in native format.”
Angela S. Fetcher is with Stoll Keenon Ogden in Louisville, Kentucky.