Show-me State can proceed in efforts to hold China accountable

Show-me State can proceed in efforts to hold China accountable

Show-me State can proceed in efforts to hold China accountable

A decision this week out of the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will allow the state of Missouri to move ahead in its efforts to sue a foreign nation.

"Missouri's position is that China is to blame for COVID-19. In its view, negligence led to the virus's escape from the laboratories at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. From there, the Chinese government allowed the virus to spread all over the world and engaged in a campaign to keep other countries from learning about it. In the meantime, the Chinese government bought up masks (and other types of personal-protective equipment). Hoarding them allowed China to sell lower-quality masks as the outbreak spread. These actions cost the state thousands of lives and 'tens of billions' of dollars in economic damage. Missouri now seeks to hold various Chinese entities responsible."

(Excerpt from 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling)

Attorney General Andrew Bailey says China should be held accountable for its unlawful hoarding of medical supplies and equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic. His office filed the lawsuit in 2020 contending Chinese officials were responsible for "enormous death, suffering and economic losses inflicted on the world, including Missourians," The Associated Press reported. A lower court ruled against Missouri's entire case, but the appeals court allowed one claim to proceed when it ruled that China did indeed hoard personal protective equipment (PPE). (See sidebar)

Bailey, Andrew (Missouri AG) Bailey

"We know that they had cornered the market on certain supplies necessary to respond to the pandemic and then hoarded those supplies and deprived the American people and policy makers from accessing those goods. It's like they created a demand and then controlled the supply," Bailey said on Washington Watch Thursday.

Judge David Stras wrote in the ruling: "Missouri's overarching theory is that China leveraged the world's ignorance about COVID-19. One way it did so was by manipulating the worldwide Personal Protective Equipment market. Missouri must still prove it, but it has alleged enough to allow the claim to proceed beyond a jurisdictional dismissal on the pleadings."

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 sets criteria that determine whether a nation is immune from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. Generally, FSIA provides immunity for these nations, but there are exceptions.

In the dissent, Judge Lavenski Smith agreed with the lower court, saying the entire suit should be dismissed.

"Immunity for foreign states under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, while not impenetrable, is quite stout and stronger than the claim alleged in this case. It is certainly not strong enough to justify judicial intervention into an arena well-populated with substantial political and diplomatic concerns," Smith wrote.

China officials have criticized the lawsuit as "very absurd" with no factual or legal basis, AP reported.

Missouri AG ready to press on

Bailey told show host Tony Perkins that his office will go back to district court and present its case. If successful, Chinese assets in the United States, specifically Missouri, could be targeted for forfeiture, he said.

"It's like they created a demand and then controlled the supply. These are central tenets of the Communist economic philosophy, so they were exorcised to the detriment of Missourians, and there was a death toll associated with it. We're going to fight to hold the Chinese Communist Party responsible," Bailey said.