Class Action Lawsuits Filed Against China Over Covid-19

May 13, 2020 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Class Action Lawsuits Filed Against China Over Covid-19

COVID-19 Damages Lead to Massive Class Action Lawsuits Against China

It is no secret that the COVID-19 virus first appeared in China, specifically the Wuhan province. Then, it spread at an alarming rate across the world leading us all to the predicament we find ourselves in today. For some, this means being laid off and questions over where the next paycheck will come from. For others, it's the anxiety over an invisible enemy that has killed hundreds of thousands of people with hundreds of thousands more estimated to die before this pandemic is over. The damage caused by this virus is incalculable, undeniable, and has led many to seek some semblance of justice in this crazy difficult time. Some people (or groups of people rather) have decided that the course of action they will take to find this justice is in the form of a class action lawsuit. And remarkably, they are filing that lawsuit against China--or more specifically, the Chinese government--to seek compensation for the damages they have suffered because of coronavirus.

Class Action Lawsuits Against the Chinese Government

So far, there have been class action lawsuits filed against the Chinese government by large groups of private citizens as well as several states including Missouri and Mississippi. The lawsuits generally aim to recover what amounts to trillions of dollars in damages from the Chinese government that they consider responsible for their alleged failure to contain the Coronavirus outbreak and to notify the international community about the viral threat. One of the lawsuits has been filed by a coalition of California property managers and an accounting firm in late March. They seek to represent all small businesses in the state of California that have sustained damages as a result of the coronavirus outbreak they believe the Chinese government's negligence helped to worsen. Another class action lawsuit was filed by conservative lawyer and founder of the group, Freedom Watch, Larry Klayman. The class action complaint alleges that China intentionally released a “biological weapon” into the public.

State Lawsuits Against the Chinese Government

Interestingly, the states of Mississippi and Missouri have both filed lawsuits in federal court against the Chinese government as well. Attorney General of Missouri, Eric Schmitt, has accused the Chinese government of an “appalling campaign of evil and deceit, concealment, misfeasance, and inaction” regarding their actions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Missouri lawsuit alleges that the Chinese government suppressed information on the COVID-19 virus by arresting whistleblowers, deceiving the public, destroying medical research, and permitting millions to be exposed to the dangerous virus. The lawsuit goes as far as to also accuse the Chinese of hoarding essential personal protective equipment instrumental in the safe treatment of those afflicted with the virus. Like the other lawsuits, Missouri seeks monetary compensation for the billions of dollars worth of damages the state has suffered as a result of the pandemic. Mississippi has also filed a lawsuit very similar to the one filed by the state of Missouri.

Can China be Sued for Coronavirus?

While class action lawsuits seeking compensation for damages caused by severe negligence that has harmed many people are very common here in the United States and other countries around the world, the act of suing a foreign country's government is rare. This is mostly due to a 1976 law known as the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act or FSIA. Thi act provides fairly broad immunity to foreign governments from lawsuits filed from here in the United States. While this immunity does provide wide protection from American lawsuits it is not absolute. There are several exceptions that can allow those in the United States to hold foreign governments accountable for damaging actions. The defendants in all of these coronavirus lawsuits are Chinese government entities that can be considered a foreign state or agency which means that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act applies to them making them immune from lawsuits that come from American state or federal courts.

Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act Exemptions

However, the Missouri lawsuit believes that their legal action falls under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act's commercial activity exemption. Their lawsuit argues that since the Chinese government's conduct that allegedly helped to spread coronavirus involved social media operations, healthcare, and commercial exports of personal protective equipment, that the lawsuit that they have filed fulfills the requirements to be considered for the commercial activity exemption. This exemption is based on §1605(a)(2) which allows U.S. district courts to assert jurisdiction over a foreign State in actions based upon: a commercial activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state; or an act performed in the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere; or an act outside the territory of the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere and that act causes a direct effect in the United States.

Slim Chances of China COVID-19 Lawsuit Success

The general consensus among legal experts seems to be that while some of these lawsuits have been professionally handled and are well thought out by those involved, the chances of the lawsuit surviving in court are very slim. At the end of the day, these lawsuits will very likely end up being dismissed based on jurisdictional grounds. While lawsuits such as the one filed by Missouri do at least find some basis to be exempt by the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act's immunity granted to China, the basis of commercial activity in regard to the Chinese government's alleged actions are somewhat of a stretch.

Class Action Lawsuits Filed as a Result of the Coronavirus Pandemic

The lawsuits against the Chinese government are not the only legal actions taken during this pandemic in order to seek compensation for damages related to COVID-19. A number of industries have had to contend with lawsuits themselves due to allegedly illegal business practices that have caused damages among their consumers. For example, the ticket vending companies, Ticketmaster and StubHub, have come under fire for refund policies that have left their consumers unable to get money back for concerts that have been inevitably postponed. The funeral industry as well has dealt with controversy in the form of lawsuits against major funeral and cremation companies like Service Corp. International that has allegedly taken advantage of the current pandemic to exploit the elderly.

Seek an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney

If you have purchased tickets for an event through Ticketmaster and have been unable to get a refund because of their policy changes, suffered because of Service Corp International's prepaid services, or dealt with a business interruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be entitled to take legal action via a class action lawsuit. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA can provide you with the experience, knowledge, and resources that you will need to ensure that the legal action you take is successful. Violation of consumer rights is an issue that is becoming more prevalent in this time where quarantine has led to exploitation by some. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA is passionate about assisting those affected by unlawful business practices and will work with you to bring a class action lawsuit that can recover financial relief after you have been exploited by these businesses. To contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA about a free consultation on your claim you can either call our office at (727) 451-6900 or fill out our contact form online. We look forward to helping you. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 N Belcher Rd Clearwater, FL 33765 (727) 451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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