Missouri becomes first state to file lawsuit against Chinese government over COVID-19

National Coronavirus Coverage

The state capitol building in Jefferson City, Missouri. (Credit: ORLIN WAGNER/AFP via Getty Images)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — Missouri’s attorney general filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Chinese government, Chinese Communist Party and other Chinese officials and institutions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The state is the first to file such a suit over the coronavirus.

According to a news release from Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the suit alleges that their actions to suppress information, arrest whistleblowers and deny the contagious nature of the 2019 novel coronavirus led to loss of life and severe economic consequences in Missouri.

“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,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt outlined four main allegations in his lawsuit, including denying the risk of human-to-human transmission, silencing of whistleblowers, failing to contain the outbreak and hoarding personal protective equipment.

“During the critical weeks of the initial outbreak, Chinese authorities deceived the public, suppressed crucial information,” Schmitt said.

The attorney general added that “COVID-19 has done irreparable damage to countries across the globe, causing sickness, death, economic disruption, and human suffering.”

Said Schmitt: “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.”

According to the news release, the lawsuit seeks relief on one count of public nuisance, one count of abnormally dangerous activities, and two counts of breach of duty.

“Remedies could include civil penalties and restitution, abatement of the public nuisance, cessation of abnormally dangerous activities, punitive damages, and more,” the release added.

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