Nevada small businesses sue China for ‘misleading’ world regarding coronavirus

sad but doubt China will pay for it
A maintenance worker boards up a store on Las Vegas Blvd. on March 20. (Photo: Bridget Bennett)
sad but doubt China will pay for it
A maintenance worker boards up a store on Las Vegas Blvd. on March 20. (Photo: Bridget Bennett)

Las Vegas attorney Robert Eglet is suing the Chinese government in a class-action suit on behalf of small businesses, claiming the nation concealed the severity of the novel coronavirus from its partners in trade, costing lives and billions of dollars in the process. 

Eglet says 99 percent of cases of COVID-19 could have been avoided had China taken swift action, alleging China’s initial disclosure in early January to the World Health Organization of a pneumonia outbreak was “misleading.” 

“American Chinese and the people of China are not to blame for China’s government’s actions,” Eglet said. 

Eglet claimed at a news conference that the Chinese government should have known of the virus since October 2019.  The earliest report of the virus is November 17.

“People started to die in December 2019,” Eglet said, alleging the Chinese government suppressed information. 

“Instead of disclosing this evidence, the PRC and the other Defendants engaged in a campaign of misinformation and lies. Upon information and belief, they engaged in a campaign of intimidating and arresting any Chinese doctors, scientists, attorneys and/or reporters who tried to alert the public about this dangerous ‘new’ coronavirus,” the complaint says.

“As a result of the actions and inactions of the People’s Republic of China and the other Defendants, the international community, including the named Plaintiffs, did not know about the severity and dangers of this “new” virus,” Eglet wrote in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in federal court.

“China has billions of dollars in assets in the U.S. This judgment is collectible,” Eglet said, despite the absence of a judgment in the case. 

Eglet says U.S. courts have jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. He noted the defendants “have acted contrary to the precepts of humanity and transparency” and estimated damages at “hundreds of billions at this point.”

Eglet said the Chinese government downplayed the risk of the virus, but he declined to address efforts by President Donald Trump to do the same.  In February, Trump told the American people the coronavirus would “miraculously disappear” as warm weather emerged. 

Eglet’s suit is the third filed against China in recent days. One was filed in Florida and another in Texas

“As COVID-19 is a novel virus with many details remaining unknown, it takes time to truly understand the virus and be able to contain the spread of the disease. Therefore, when the first case of ‘a mysterious pneumonia’ was discovered in Wuhan in December 2019, there was not enough knowledge and information to piece together an accurate picture of a yet-to-be-identified new virus, let alone to predict the risk of quick spreading and the later global pandemic,” Huo Zhengxin, a professor of law at the China University of Political Science wrote in an opinion piece for a Chinese news service. “In fact, a retrospective examination suggests that Chinese authorities have responded with high efficiency which has effectively postponed the spread of COVID-19 to foreign countries.”

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.