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How To Sue A Country

Reasons to choose Wilson Browne

In an update to the original article (below), news is breaking that proceedings have now started against China:

US lawyers sue China for TRILLIONS of dollars as they accuse Beijing of negligence for allowing coronavirus outbreak to erupt before covering it up.

  • Lawyers in the US have launched a landmark legal action to sue China
  • Leaders accused of negligence for COVID-19 outbreak and then covering it up
  • A second legal case accuses China of hoarding life-saving medical supplies
  • Pressure is now on President Xi Jinping to account fully for his country’s actions

The class action, which involves thousands of claimants from 40 countries including Britain and the US, was filed in Florida last month and includes British nationals.

This action is at an individual level, and not (yet) at a state or national level.

Original article:

There have been some interesting rumblings in the press today about China being held to account over the coronavirus.

It is not for us to comment on the political, economic and moral justifications for this but it raises some interesting issues, especially as for the UK alone, a figure of £351 billion has been floated.

Stuart Love, Head of Litigation give his insights here:

There is no doubt that once the Coronavirus has passed the courts will be clogged up for years to come with litigation caused by the pandemic.

However, it is also now being suggested that that UK (and other countries) may sue the Chinese government for the losses incurred as a result of the manner in which it initially responded to the outbreak.

Although the idea of suing China may initially seem far fetched, it may be possible.

The Henry Jackson Society (HJS) has reported that the Chinese government:

  • Failed to disclose data that would have revealed evidence of human to human transmission for a period of 2 -3 weeks after becoming aware of it;
  • Provided the World Health Organisation with incorrect data about the number of infections; and
  • Allowed 5 million people to leave Wuhan before imposing a lockdown, despite knowledge of the risk of human to human transmission.

If correct these failures could be breaches of Articles 6 and 7 of the International Health Regulations.

HJS has also reported that damages payable to the G7 nations alone could reach £3.2 trillion.

There is a significant amount of debate as to what the correct legal process would be and indeed if a successful claim could be brought.

Even if a claim could be brought the long term political ramifications of weakening China may deter the international community from taking such steps.

There are certainly more questions than answers at this stage but it will be interesting to see how this issue develops.

Stuart Love

Posted:

Stuart Love

Partner

Stuart is a Partner and also Head of the Commercial Litigation team. He specialises in complex commercial litigation, including contract disputes, business ownership disputes, contentious insolvency and debt collection.