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Missouri sues China for damages over coronavirus pandemic

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The state's attorney general is seeking a financial judgment and to hold the Chinese government accountable

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R)/(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The state of Missouri has become the first in the U.S. to file a lawsuit against the Chinese government, seeking damages for the loss of lives and economic destruction resulting from the coronavirus pandemic that originated in Wuhan, China.

What are the details?

Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) sued the People's Republic of China, the Communist Party of China, and several other Chinese authoritative bodies on Tuesday, accusing the defendants of deceptive practices and downplaying the severity of the outbreak to the rest of the world.

"An appalling campaign of deceit, concealment, misfeasance, and inaction by Chinese authorities unleashed this pandemic," the suit reads. "During the critical weeks of the initial outbreak, Chinese authorities deceived the public, suppressed crucial information, arrested whistleblowers, denied human-to-human transmission in the face of mounting evidence, destroyed critical medical research, permitted millions of people to be exposed to the virus, and even hoarded personal protective equipment—thus causing a global pandemic that was unnecessary and preventable."

Schmitt is seeking restitution and asked the court to "order that the Chinese Government Defendants, the Communist Party, and the Laboratory Defendants cease engaging in the abnormally dangerous activities, reimburse the cost of [Missouri's] abatement efforts, and pay compensatory and other damages caused" by the outbreak.

Fox News reported that "Missouri has confirmed 5,963 cases of the virus and 215 deaths as of Tuesday morning," and noted that "the economic shutdown the state imposed to reduce the spread of the disease has cost Missouri about $44 billion, according to one estimate."

"In Missouri, the impact of the virus is very real," Schmitt said in a statement. "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."

Anything else?

ABC News reported that "it's unclear whether the lawsuit will have much, if any, impact," pointing out that "U.S. law generally prohibits lawsuits against other countries with few exceptions."

Chimene Keitner, an international law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, explained to Reuters, "If the United States wants to bring claims against China, it will have to do so in an international forum. There is no civil jurisdiction over such claims in U.S. courts."

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