A federal class action lawsuit has been brought against the Chinese government and many of the country’s health institutions, accusing them of failing to adequately address and contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak. Since the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, first emerged in the Wuhan province of China in December 2019, it has spread to more than 100 countries and is now considered a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). As of March 16, 2020, there have been more than 3,800 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States and at least 74 deaths. Globally, the coronavirus death toll has topped 6,500. This new class action lawsuit alleges that the virus could have been better contained and thousands of deaths could have been prevented had the Chinese government acted appropriately in handling the initial outbreak of COVID-19.
The complaint against China was filed on March 13 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and seeks class action status for individuals and business owners in the United States who have suffered damages as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In an effort to contain or slow the spread of the virus, many areas throughout the U.S. have closed schools, theaters, restaurants, bars and other venues where large numbers of people gather. The need to protect older people and people with weakened immune systems from the disease has spurred a global movement known as “social distancing,” which encourages people to avoid mixing with others in order to slow the spread of the virus and give scientists time to develop a treatment. For all intents and purposes, life and work in the U.S., as well as in many other countries, is on hold and many individuals and businesses nationwide have been adversely impacted as a result.
Among other things, this new class action lawsuit alleges that Chinese officials failed to act swiftly to contain the spread of the virus, downplayed the severity of the outbreak and censored doctors trying to report the outbreak to the rest of the world. “The PRC and the other defendants knew that COVID-19 was dangerous and capable of causing a pandemic, yet slowly acted, proverbially put their head in the sand and/or covered it up for their own economic self-interest,” the class action lawsuit states. “The conduct of Defendants has caused injury and incalculable harm to Named Plaintiffs and Class Members, and such injury and harm will only multiply in coming days and weeks. The Defendants’ conduct has caused and will continue to cause personal injuries and deaths, as well as other damages.”
The class action lawsuit seeks billions of dollars in compensatory damages for those who have suffered personal injuries, damages and economic harm as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including the wrongful death of loved ones. The lawsuit presents claims of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, strict liability for conducting ultrahazardous activity and public nuisance, and names as defendants the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the country’s Ministry of Emergency Management, National Health Commission and Ministry of Civil Affairs, the city of Wuhan and the Hubei province.