US Lawmakers to Introduce Bill Allowing Americans to Sue China Over Pandemic

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
April 21, 2020Updated: April 21, 2020

Two Republican senators announced their intention to introduce a bill that would allow Americans to bring lawsuits in U.S. courts against the regime in China for its role in causing the global pandemic.

“China’s Communist Party must face consequences for its role in the origin and spread of the coronavirus,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said in an April 20 statement.

Congress is currently in recess until at least May, as part of social distancing measures to prevent the CCP virus from spreading.

The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, originated from the central China city of Wuhan. The Chinese regime initially concealed the outbreak through measures that included silencing eight doctors who took to Chinese social media to warn people about a new form of pneumonia in late December.

The virus has since spread to over 200 countries and territories, causing more than 43,500 deaths in the United States alone.

“The costs are devastating: trillions of dollars in economic damage, more than 22 million American jobs lost, and over 150,000 deaths worldwide and counting. Business owners and families who have lost loved ones deserve justice,” Blackburn said.

Currently, Americans face barriers in lawsuits against the Chinese regime in U.S. courts because foreign governments enjoy protection guaranteed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), a U.S. law that insulates countries from being sued in the United States.

The new legislation, named the “Stop COVID Act of 2020,” would eliminate sovereign immunity for states under FSIA, if any state is found to have “intentionally or unintentionally, to have discharged a biological agent … results in the bodily injury, death, or damage to property of a national of the United States.”

“Our legislation to allow Americans to file lawsuits against the Chinese Communist Party for its role in perpetuating the global spread of the coronavirus will give the U.S. a piece of justice,” the measure’s co-sponsor, Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), said, according to the release.

A companion bill (H.R. 6444) was introduced in the House of Representatives on April 3 by Rep. Lance Gooden (R-Texas).

“Right now, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act is a shield for the Chinese Communist Party to hide behind. We need to change that,” said Gooden in the press release.

The legislation comes amid growing calls by U.S. officials to hold Beijing accountable for the pandemic.

Florida law firm The Berman Law Group, in partnership with Washington-based lobbying firm Lucas Compton, filed a class-action lawsuit against the Chinese regime on March 12, alleging that Beijing’s initial coverup resulted in the worldwide pandemic.

The lawsuit “seeks billions of dollars in compensatory damages for those who have suffered personal injuries, wrongful deaths, property damage and other damages due to China’s failure to contain the COVID-19 virus, despite their ability to have stopped the spread of the virus in its early stage,” according to a statement from the law firm.

Tel Aviv-based NGO Shurat HaDin has also announced that it plans to file a class-action lawsuit against the Chinese regime in the United States, over Beijing’s alleged negligence in containing the virus, according to an April 19 article by The Jerusalem Post.

Other U.S. lawmakers have introduced similar legislation to allow Americans to sue China over damages from the CCP virus pandemic.

Last week, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) introduced a bill in both chambers of Congress and modeled after the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) to amend the FSIA. The bill would create a “narrow exception for damages caused by China’s dangerous handling” of the virus, according to a statement.

On April 17, Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Ron Wright (R-Texas) introduced H.R. 6524, a bill that would, similar to JASTA, allow victims to sue a foreign country.

“My bill strips China, and any other country which intentionally misleads the WHO, of its sovereign immunity, and allows Americans to sue the Chinese government in court for the damages they have suffered as a consequence of China’s misrepresentations to the world about the seriousness and nature of the novel coronavirus,” said Smith, according to a statement from his office.