The state of Missouri is suing China for that country’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. It’s the first such lawsuit brought by a state, and it relies on an unusual interpretation of federal law.

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Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, blames China for letting the coronavirus spread. So he’s suing China, three government ministries, two local governments, two laboratories, and the Chinese Communist Party in U.S. District Court. They all “engaged in misrepresentations, concealment, and retaliation to conceal the gravity and seriousness of the COVID-19 outbreak from the rest of the world,” according to Schmitt.

While Missouri might have a hard time moving forward with a lawsuit against China, Schmitt says there are workarounds. For instance, Schmitt says there’s an exception for commercial activity and alleges that labs and hospitals are commercial ventures. He’s also counting the Chinese Communist Party as a nonstate actor, which he says fortifies his legal argument.


In the meantime, other Republicans also are moving to try to hold China, not U.S. officials, responsible for American coronavirus deaths and economic damage. Last week, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley introduced a bill to strip China of its sovereign immunity.