Utah Senate Bill 185

Summary

S.B.185 would provide a cause of action for a person to sue anyone who produces or distributes material harmful to minors if, at the time the material was produced the person was a minor; and the material was the proximate cause for the person being harmed physically or psychologically, or by emotional or medical illnesses.

The plaintiff can recover actual damages, attorney fees and costs. He or she can recover punitive damages if they can prove that the person targeted minors.

There is an exception if the person who produces or distributes the harmful to minors material makes a good faith effort to prevent minors from accessing the harmful to minors content and posts conspicuous warning signs that appear before the content and something similar to one of:

(A) “Using pornography may impair sexual function with partners.”;

(B) “Using pornography can cause escalating sexual preferences to more extreme content.”;

(C) “Using pornography has been shown to reduce sexual and relationship satisfaction.”;

(D) “Using pornography may become compulsive”; or

(E) “Some jurisdictions recognize pornography as a public health hazard.”

The bill was amended to make three important changes. First, the law will only apply to obscene material. Second, the injured party must be a minor at the time they read, viewed or heard the obscene material. Third, a bookseller, publisher or librarian can only be held responsible if they are “predominantly” in the business of producing or distributing obscene material.

Status

The amended version of the bill was signed by Utah Governor Gary Herbert on March 28,2017. The law is now in effect.

Analysis

As drafted, the bill would allow anyone to sue a bookseller, librarian, publisher or other media if they could show a book, movie, music or other type of speech they consumed was inappropriate for minors when it was created and that it was the proximate cause of their physical, psychological or emotional harm or medical illness. This meant an adult who read a sexual health book, saw an art house movie or played a mature video game that was inappropriate for a twelve-year-old could sue the distributor if he or she claimed it was the proximate cause for an anxiety, psychological injury or anti-social behavior and was a minor when the material was produced.

History

  • S.B.185[1] was introduced on February 7, and referred to the Committee on Judiciary.
  • On February 27, the bill was sent to the House with amendments[2].
  • On March 7, the bill was passed by the House and sent to Senate.
  • On March 16, Senate passed the bill and sent it to the governor.
  • On March 28, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed the bill.