How metadata can assist in checking the veracity of a file
“The facts are not in dispute”, according to a 2014 Iowa case.
Someone representing his client in a civil action forgot to serve certain papers, and so he “decided to lie about his failure to serve discovery”, and sent two discovery requests by email in June which were purportedly previously served March 21. However, those documents were fabricated, in a move which the court said “he will regret for the remainder of his legal career”.
What would you do if you received those documents? Because of its timing, they needed to be investigated – and quickly! The opposing counsel first’s steps were to examine what the court called “electronic data embedded in the discovery documents” – otherwise known as metadata. These document properties showed that the documents were created in June, not March as alleged.
Their suspicions confirmed, they then hired a handwriting expert, who concluded that the signatures on these papers were photocopies of previous signatures. This case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Iowa, who confirmed a 6 month suspension of the man’s license to practice law.
If you receive documents that you want to investigate, do what the opposing counsel did – investigate the metadata, and see what you can find.
A good way to do so is by using Filecats Professional, which catalogs multiple files and folders into Microsoft Excel. It enables you to check document properties such as Date Created and Date Modified for Word documents and emails and more – not just what Windows Explorer tells you, but what the applications themselves believe.
Download a free 7-day trial today, and see what hidden data is contained in your (or other people’s files) that you can use to your advantage.
Oh – the moral of the story: don’t fabricate documents. People will find out.
This article does not represent to make legal advice. You should always consult a suitably qualified attorney regarding any specific legal problem or matter.