The state of Missouri has filed suit against the Chinese government over the coronavirus pandemic, becoming the first to do so while claiming Beijing is responsible for economic damages.
The civil suit was filed in federal court by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, alleging negligence, among other claims.
The complaint also alleged that Missouri and its residents have likely suffered tens of billions of dollars in economic damages, and thus it seeks cash compensation.
“The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease,” Schmitt, a Republican, said in a statement. “They must be held accountable for their actions.”
The suit also accused China of covering up the extent of its coronavirus epidemic through an “appalling campaign of deceit” that led to the death and suffering of state residents.
The lawsuit also accuses the Chinese government of making the pandemic worse by “hoarding” masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
The Chinese government was already facing civil lawsuits in various federal courts in the U.S. filed by business interests for economic damages.
That said, legal experts say the suits will probably fail.
A legal doctrine called sovereign immunity offers foreign governments broad protection from being sued in U.S. courts, said Tom Ginsburg, a professor of international law at the University of Chicago, Reuters reported.
“If the United States wants to bring claims against China, it will have to do so in an international forum,” noted Chimène Keitner, an international law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. “There is no civil jurisdiction over such claims in U.S. courts.”
Let the lawsuits begin!
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