One barrier to the lawsuit is the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which states that a country is immune from civil suits or criminal prosecution in the court of another country. There are, however, exceptions set forth under the FSIA, which allows private individuals in the United States to sue a foreign country for its actions in certain situations.

Alters said U.S. lawsuits suing foreign countries have happened before, including ones against Libya, Sudan, Cuba, and even China. He said the two exceptions of the FSCA their suit will rely on are the “commercial activity” and “terrorism” exemptions.

“We are going to fight to make China pay and there is nothing that is going to stand in our way of doing that,” Alters said. “This is the American way. This is what we do. When someone has wronged you, you can go to court to recover. When a country has wronged you in such a massive way, you should have the right to do the very same thing.”

George Sorial, a partner of Lucas Compton, added that the lawsuit is unifying people in the country under a special cause.

“What we’re doing on behalf of people in the United States that has been hurt,” Sorial said. “We’re all aligned together and this is a bipartisan effort.”