“If they broke their own laws and the acts they committed were so egregious, then they need to be held accountable, “ said Jeremy Alters, chief firm strategist in the lawsuits, the second of which represents front-line health workers.

Similar suits have been filed in California, Pennsylvania and Texas. Last month, Missouri’s Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed suit against the Chinese government alleging it did nothing to stop the spread of a disease that escaped a government lab where scientists were conducting experiments on bat viruses. The pandemic has resulted in more than 300,000 deaths globally.

But it isn’t easy suing a sovereign country, which is why Alters and his team have distinguished between the Communist Party and China itself. And even if they win a case in an American court, collecting a potential judgment of billions might be impossible. Litigation against Saudi Arabia for its alleged role in financing the 9/11 attacks is still not resolved. However, a 20-year court battle against Libya in the 1988 downing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, did result in a $1.5 billion payout to victims’ families in 2008.