Do really bad things sometimes just happen or is some entity always responsible? That’s the main question behind a class-action lawsuit filed this week that accuses the Chinese government of engaging “in a campaign of misinformation and lies” to cover up the severity of the coronavirus outbreak.
“They engaged in a campaign of intimidating and arresting any Chinese doctors, scientists, attorneys and/or reporters who tried to alert the public about this dangerous ‘new’ coronavirus,” the complaint alleges. The federal lawsuit was filed in Las Vegas by the firm Eglet Adams on behalf of four Nevada businesses and one Illinois business.
Named as defendants in the case are the People’s Republic of China, the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China, the Ministry of Emergency Management of the People’s Republic of China, the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Government of Hubei Province and the People’s Government of the City of Wuhan, China.
The lawsuit alleges negligence, public nuisance and “strict liability for conducting ultra-hazardous activity.”
Attorney Robert Eglet said during a videoconference with news media Tuesday that the lawsuit targeted the government and that Chinese Americans and the people of China “are not to blame.” He added that China has “trillions (of dollars) in assets here in the United States, so this judgment’s collectible,” though the litigation could take several years.
Eglet also said the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which protects nations from civil action, would not apply. “There will always be challenges we receive in court, but we’re prepared for them,” he said.
More than a million small businesses in the U.S. have been forced to close or substantially reduce their operations, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit sets up a timeline of the pandemic that starts with the first reported case in Wuhan in the Hubei province of China in November, stating that the Chinese government “should have known that COVID-19 was a ‘new’ dangerous, contagious, and deadly virus because many Chinese citizens who contracted the virus were getting very sick, and some were dying.”
Because of China’s response to the pandemic, damages are expected to “exceed hundreds of billions of dollars, and such damages will only increase in the future,” the complaint alleges.
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