• Missouri is the first U.S. state to sue China because of the coronavirus pandemic
  • Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed the lawsuit
  • There were seven other lawsuits against China, initiated by private groups in the U.S.

Missouri became the first state in the United States to file a lawsuit against China over the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday (April 21), citing the Chinese government was responsible for the global economic losses and the enormous death and suffering of many people, including Missourians.

The state's Attorney General Eric Schmitt initiated the filing at the Eastern District of Missouri after 22 lawmakers from the Republican party also requested President Donald Trump to sue China in the International Court of Justice (ICIJ).

"The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of COVID-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease,” Schmitt said. "They must be held accountable for their actions.”

There were nearly 6,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, with more than 200 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon. Approximately 56,986 tests were conducted across public and private laboratories, per the state's health department.

"In Missouri, the impact of the virus is very real - thousands have been infected and many have died, families have been separated from dying loved ones, small businesses are shuttering their doors, and those living paycheck to paycheck are struggling to put food on their table," the attorney general said.

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Chris Tate, second from right, a mechanical engineer assigned to the 635th Forward Engineer Support Team - Main, Missouri National Guard, assists with a site survey with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Kansas City Convention Center in Kansas City, Missouri, March 31, 2020. The team was assessing the building as a possible alternative health care facility as part of the state’s response to COVID19. Master Sgt. Michael Crane/Flickr

Meanwhile, at least seven other lawsuits initiated by private groups and business owners have also been filed in the U.S. courts. It came as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Rep. Dan Crenshaw R-Tx., were proposing to file the bill "Holding the Chinese Communist Party Accountable for Infecting Americans Act of 2020," to allow Americans to sue China and the Chinese Communist Party for damages.

"This bill will help ensure China’s actions are not without consequences," Crenshaw said.

International law experts, however, said efforts to sue China in the U.S. courts were likely a stunt, especially in this election year. Ashley Deeks of the University of Virginia School of Law said, with some rare exceptions, U.S. laws do not allow lawsuits against other countries.

"We are seeing a lot of people on the political right focus on the China issue to cover up for the U.S. government's own errors," University of Chicago international law professor Tom Ginsburg said.

Responding to the lawsuits, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said it was a waste of time to attack and discredit countries.

"The international community can overcome the virus only if it can stay united and cooperate to make concerted efforts,” the spokesperson said.