In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, class action litigation of various types has been initiated, ranging from consumer to employment class actions. Most of these class actions seemingly relate to companies’ reactions to the pandemic, but a recent class action filed in the Southern District of Florida addresses the COVID-19 pandemic head-on.
In early March, a complaint was filed by Logan Alters and other named plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, against the People’s Republic of China and various other Chinese governmental agencies overseeing the response to the coronavirus pandemic in China. Alters alleges that the People’s Republic of China, and other governmental entities, knew that COVID-19 was dangerous, failed to timely report the outbreak and covered up the outbreak to protect their economic self-interest, and that this conduct has caused injury and harm to the named plaintiffs and class members. As an alternative theory, Alters also alleges that COVID-19 escaped from a bioweapon research lab in Wuhan due to lax controls or because Chinese researchers sold lab animals into the marketplace in violation of Chinese law.
The complaint defines a national noncommercial tort class consisting of “[a]ll persons and legal entities in the United States who have suffered injury, damage, and loss related to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.” The complaint also defines a Florida noncommercial tort subclass, which includes “[a]ll persons and legal entities in the State of Florida who have suffered injury, damage, and loss related to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.” Additional named plaintiff TBT Training also asserts separate national and Florida commercial classes with similar class language.
Alters alleges that common questions of law and fact include whether the defendants’ conduct was negligent or reckless, was contrary to precepts of humanity, or violated Chinese law and whether Chinese bioweapons labs are ultrahazardous activities and caused the release of the virus.
The complaint brings claims of negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, strict liability for conducting ultrahazardous activity, and public nuisance against all defendants for each class and subclass.