April 21: Missouri on Tuesday became the first U.S. state to sue the Chinese government over its handling of the coronavirus, saying that China’s response to the outbreak that originated in Wuhan city led to devastating economic losses in the state.
The civil lawsuit, filed in federal court by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, alleges negligence, among other claims, Reuters reported. The complaint alleges Missouri and its residents have suffered possibly tens of billions of dollars in economic damages, and 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 lawsuit also accuses the Chinese government of making the pandemic worse by “hoarding” masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
U.S. President Donald Trump, also a Republican, initially lavished praise on China and his counterpart Xi Jinping for the official response to the outbreak, which has since spread to infect more than 2.5 million people worldwide. But he and other senior U.S. officials have also referred to it as the “Chinese virus” and in recent days have ramped up their rhetoric.
China is already facing similar lawsuits filed in U.S. courts on behalf of U.S. business owners.
International law experts told Reuters that efforts to hold China liable for the coronavirus in U.S. courts will likely fail.