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Tipsheet

GOP Senators Introduce Legislation Allowing COVID-19 Victims to Sue China in Federal Court

Li Xueren/Xinhua via AP

A group of Republican Senators co-authored a bill that gives Americans who contracted COVID-19 the autonomy to sue the Chinese government in federal court. The Civil Justice for Victims of COVID Act, spearheaded by Sen. Martha McSally (AZ) and supported by Sens. Marsha Blackburn (TN), Tom Cotton (AR), Josh Hawley (MO), Mike Rounds (SD) and Thom Tillis (NC), amends Title 28 and grants federal courts the authority to hear grievances surrounding China’s role in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“A foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of the courts of the United States in any case in which money damages are sought against a foreign state for death or physical or economic injury to person, property, or business occurring in the United States following any reckless action or omission (including a conscious disregard of the 18 need to report information promptly or deliberately hiding relevant information) of a foreign state, or of any official, employee, or agent of that foreign state while acting within the scope of his or her office, employment, or agency, that caused or substantially contributed to the COVID– 19 global pandemic in the United States, regardless of where the action or omission occurred,” the legislation reads.

The GOP-sponsored bill mirrors a piece of legislation from 2016, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, that sought to give victims of terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 the autonomy to sue foreign nations via civil lawsuits in federal court. Former President Obama eventually vetoed the legislation.

The bill strips the Chinese government of its sovereign immunity and adds to the GOP Senate majority’s effort to hold China and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to account for its role in the perpetuation of COVID-19.

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