Spreadsheets are used by many businesses to organize, track, and manage information. However, they can be complex records containing formulas, macros, or hidden data. A TIFF image of a spreadsheet does not show any of this complex information. That hidden data may contain important information or comments about the data and it may well be relevant to the litigation.
Production format is important and should be considered well in advance of receiving your opponent’s records. When preparing your discovery plan, consider the types of records you have as well as what records you are seeking. Consider how you will review and understand the records. Go through the list of file types with an e-discovery advisor, and ask questions about the impact of different file formats on “usability”.
In the recent Alberta decision in Bard v. Canadian Natural Resources  A.J. No.540 , a plaintiff sought production of native files to supplement TIFF image versions which were already produced. The court agreed with the plaintiff’s argument that the TIFF images of spreadsheets were unusable because they excluded the metadata and formulas that are part of a native file. The court noted “Producing records in an unusable format undermines procedural fairness and just results.” Although the defendant argued proportionality as it would cost them approximately $50,000 to produce the spreadsheets in native format, the court ultimately granted the plaintiff’s request.
In preparing your discovery plan, the format of production is important. The Sedona Canada Principles recommend that electronic information be produced in native format wherever possible. That is good advice.