Bill Allowing Lawsuits Against Porn Distributors Advancing Through Legislature

Mar 3, 2017

Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, received national attention last year for running a resolution to declare pornography a public health hazard. He says this year’s Senate Bill 185 is a follow-up and would allow a person to sue a pornography distribution company for damages to a minor.

“You could have all of the same opportunities to prove damages,” Weiler told the House Judiciary Committee Friday. “You’d have to meet all of the evidentiary burdens. You’d probably have to bring in expert testimony, but if you could prove a damage, then you could ask for money damages."

However, if a pornography manufacturer or distributor could prove that it made an effort to verify the age of the viewer and had a disclaimer on its website warning that pornography can be harmful, the lawsuit could be thrown out.

Weiler says he’d like those types of warnings to start cropping up, and “that it will become business-savvy for some of these adult websites to just start warning people and start beefing up their age-verification efforts,” he says. “I think that’s the real potential impact of this bill, rather than having a bunch of lawsuits that are filed and won.”

The bill got a warm reception in the House committee Friday morning. Lawmakers had only one concern: that language in the bill could make it risky for families to bring a lawsuit against a giant pornography distributing company.

“This is a tough lawsuit,” says Democratic Rep. Brian King, “and if you lose, the statute says the distributor or manufacturer of the porn can recover attorney fees against you.”

King and other members of the House Judiciary Committee voted to remove that language, which Weiler says was in the bill as a compromise with stakeholders. It passed out of the committee and will now be considered by the full House.