Attorneys debate scope of class action lawsuit against former UHP trooper

Posted at 7:11 PM, Jul 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-01 21:11:09-04

FARMINGTON, Utah  – A legal showdown is looming over whether a class action lawsuit will expand against a former Utah Highway Patrol Trooper accused of wrongfully arresting drivers for DUI.

Trooper Lisa Steed was fired after accusations emerged that she had wrongfully arrested drivers for DUI, and last Friday a judge upheld her firing.

A lawyer for two plaintiffs suing the state of Utah and Steed wants four years’ worth of files and videos on the trooper. Attorney Robert Sykes said he wants to determine how large this class-action lawsuit could be.

Sykes is representing Thomas Romero and Julie Tapia, both of whom were arrested by Steed for DUI in 2011. Tests showed that neither plaintiff was drunk. Their cases were dismissed, but they said they spent thousands of dollars fighting the allegations. The pair filed a class action lawsuit in December 2012.

The state fought against Sykes’ request for four years of records in a Farmington courtroom Monday. David Wolf, Utah assistant attorney general, argued the case is not appropriate for a class action lawsuit.

"The case-law is clear, and common sense tells us that each arrest is unique and the facts and circumstances supporting each arrest are unique,” he said.

Sykes said he disagrees with that assessment, which is why he wants the records released.

"I'm saying in order to prove the class we have got to take the facts that show the fraud and the improper conduct and get those facts and show the judge that there's a large number of people that meet these criteria,” he said.

Sykes is seeking more than $20 million in damages on behalf of his clients, but the judge has yet to determine if there will be more than these two plaintiffs in this case.