Groups of people in the United States who have been affected by the novel coronavirus are taking action against China for allegedly failing to contain the spread early.
So far, at least nine lawsuits have been filed claiming that China attempted to hide information from the outbreak center of Wuhan, and to conceal what officials in that country knew.
Eight of the lawsuits are potential class actions that could end up representing thousands of people and businesses. Another suit was filed by the attorney general of Missouri, which so far is the only state to take legal action against China.
However, the cases face obstacles under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which states that foreign governments cannot be sued in the U.S. unless certain exceptions are met.
“We think it’s going to be an uphill battle for them to ultimately take advantage of those exceptions,” says Robert Boone, an attorney in Los Angeles who specializes in class action cases.
One of those exceptions involves commercial activity that directly affects the U.S.
Another of the exceptions addresses misconduct inside the U.S. under certain circumstances that is then traceable back to a foreign government. Yet another exception covers whether the foreign entity explicitly waived its immunity, such as by including certain language in a contract.
The attorneys who filed the lawsuits say they can prove those claims, and will determine some method of collecting damages, perhaps by seizing Chinese bank accounts or other assets here. if the Chinese refuse to pay, if they end up winning.
Bernie Marcus: Missouri’s lawsuit against the Chinese Communist Party outlines all the ways the CCP failed the world during the COVID-19. The communist dictatorship must be held accountable.https://t.co/eG02gCb5NX
— newtgingrich (@newtgingrich) May 5, 2020
In one of the cases filed in Miami federal court, attorneys Matthew Moore and Jeremy Alters are suing the Chinese Communist Party as an entity separate from the Chinese government.
“They have their own assets. They are recognized as an independent organization. We are going to argue they are not a part of the government,” Moore sas. “There has been personal injury that happened in the United States.”
Alters adds: “They’re going to have to pay … We can say, ‘We’re not going to do business with you anymore.’ When you hit them in the (gross domestic product), it hurts.”
On the other hand, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang is defending his country’s record of fighting the virus. He states the lawsuit filed by the Missouri attorney general is “very absurd and has no factual and legal basis.”
Shuang says that China has acted in an “open, transparent, and responsible manner,” and the U.S. government should “dismiss such vexatious litigation,” he said.
In the meantime, efforts are underway in Congress and in some state legislatures to make it easier to sue China and other countries.
It us not clear at this time whether any of the proposed legislation will pass. However, if the bills are ultimately enacted, legal experts believe such a situation could lead to hundreds more lawsuits against China.