Missouri became the first state to sue the Chinese government for economic losses suffered because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"COVID-19 has done irreparable damage to countries across the globe, causing sickness, death, economic disruption, and human suffering," Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt said in a statement. Schmitt announced the suit on Tuesday.
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"In Missouri, the impact of the virus is very real—thousands have been infected and many have died, families have been separated from dying loved ones, small businesses are shuttering their doors, and those living paycheck to paycheck are struggling to put food on their table," Schmitt added. "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. They must be held accountable for their actions."
The lawsuit accuses the Chinese government of "an appalling campaign of deceit, concealment, misfeasance, and inaction." It states the government lied, suppressed information and research, and allowed millions to become infected around the globe. It goes on to state that, even as thousands began dying from the virus, China refused to cooperate with the global community and continued suppressing important research that could help mitigate its effects.
The suit seeks to compel China to reimburse the Missouri state government for its treatment efforts and lost economic activity, as well as damages caused by "abnormally dangerous activities." The attorney general filed the suit in the district court for the Eastern District of Missouri.
Missouri has more than 5,800 confirmed coronavirus cases and 177 deaths as of Tuesday.
Republicans in Congress have introduced a bill allowing Americans to sue China over the coronavirus. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R., Tex.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) proposed the legislation, which would amend the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and allow citizens to hold China accountable in federal court.