Athome Care, Inc. v. The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER granting 34 Motion to Compel the Production of Documents. Signed by Judge B. Lynn Winmill. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (cjm)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
ATHOME CARE, INC., an Idaho
Case No. 1:12-cv-053-BLW
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN
GOOD SAMARITAN SOCIETY, a
North Dakota corporation,
The Court has before it Plaintiff AtHome Care’s Motion to Compel the Production
of Documents (Dkt. 34).
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.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 1
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.
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
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 2
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.
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
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 3
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 a document is questioned or if establishing who
received what information and when is important to the claims or defenses of a party.” Id.
(Internal quotation and citation omitted).
AtHome suggests that the system metadata is relevant because the claims in its
Complaint focus on the unauthorized use and misappropriation of AtHome’s proprietary
information and whether Good Samaritan used AtHome’s proprietary information to
create their own materials and model. Thus, AtHome contends that the system metadata
can answer the question of who received what information when and when documents
were created. Specifically, AtHome contends that it must show misappropriation with
respect to its trade secret claim. This is not the time for addressing the claims in detail,
but the Court notes that, as explained by AtHome, Idaho law indicates that
misappropriation includes “use of a trade secret of another without express or implied
consent” or where the trade secret was “[a]cquired under circumstances giving rise to a
duty to maintain its secrecy or limit its use.” See Idaho Code § 48-801(b)(B)(ii) and (iii).
Thus, use is an issue with regard to at least one claim, and the metadata may evidence
such use by Good Samaritan.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 4
Good Samaritan’s argument that AtHome exaggerates the strength of its trade
secret claim, and that it cannot meet its threshold requirement of proving its information
was secret, is misplaced. This is not summary judgment. As explained above, 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), and “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). The requested metadata “appears
reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Fed.R. Civ.P.
26(b)(1). Thus, it is discoverable.
The only question, then, is whether the burden of producing the metadata
outweighs the benefit. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C). As an initial matter, the Court must
acknowledge that Good Samaritan created the problem by inadvertently changing the
creation date on the documents. The Court does not find any degree of bad faith on the
part of Good Samaritan – accidents happen – but this fact does weight in favor of
requiring Good Samaritan to bear the burden of production.
Moreover, the Court does not find the burden all that great. As AtHome explains,
it is not asking Good Samaritan to re-collect all electronic documents. Instead, AtHome
requests the metadata related to two categories, which are Good Samaritan’s models for
providing private duty home care. One model is the pilot location model, and the other is
the Good Samaritan model. Accordingly, the Court will order Good Samaritan to provide
AtHome with the metadata of the electronic documents for the two models.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 5
However, apparently there is also a dispute about which party is in the best
position to determine which documents make up those two models. On the one hand,
AtHome suggests that Good Samaritan had a structure in place for creating the models,
so they should be able to easily identify the documents and produce the metadata for
them. On the other hand, Good Samaritan suggests that AtHome provide it with list of
bates numbers of documents for which the origination date metadata is specifically
This puts the Court in a somewhat difficult position because the Court is not, and
cannot be, as familiar with the documents as the parties at this point. Accordingly, the
Court can only make a determination based upon its limited knowledge of the issue.
Under these circumstances, the Court finds that Good Samaritan should be able to
determine the documents which make up the two models since it originally organized the
models. As the creator of the documents, Good Samaritan is in a better position for
making that determination than AtHome. AtHome, like the Court, must rely to some
degree on Good Samaritan’s knowledge of the documents. Therefore, the Court will
order Good Samaritan to identify and produce the metadata for the documents related to
the two models. But the Court expects counsel and the parties to work together in
gathering the documents and making the production.
Finally, Good Samaritan asks that it be allowed to proceed with depositions of
AtHome’s key witnesses. The Court sees no reason why those depositions should not
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 6
proceed at this point, and grants that request. The parties must move forward with
remaining discovery in this case so we can hold the current scheduling deadlines.
IT IS ORDERED:
Plaintiff AtHome Care’s Motion to Compel the Production of Documents
(Dkt. 34) is GRANTED.
DATED: April 30, 2013
B. Lynn Winmill
United States District Court
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - 7
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?