COVID victims' families sue EcoHealth, alleging 'funding’ and 'releasing' virus

The families are seeking unspecified damages in a Manhattan court.

Published: August 13, 2023 1:24pm

Updated: August 13, 2023 1:42pm

The families of four people who died from COVID-19 are suing EcoHealth Alliance, the nonprofit group that funded research in Wuhan, China, for allegedly "creating" the virus and "releasing it, either intentionally or accidentally."

The EcoHealth Alliance and the group's president, Peter Daszak, were aware of the virus' dangers and knew it was "capable of causing a worldwide pandemic," according to the lawsuit filed this month in Manhattan, where the nonprofit is based, the New York Post reported Saturday.

"If we had known the source or origin of this virus and had not been misled that it was from a pangolin in a wet market, and rather we knew that it was a genetically manipulated virus, and that the scientists involved were concealing that from our clients, the outcome could have been very different," attorney Patricia Finn, who is representing the victims, told the paper.

The plaintiffs state in the lawsuit that EcoHealth failed to make sure security measures were in place in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which it partially funded, and then the nonprofit worked to cover up the outbreak's origins, according to court papers. 

The organization has been under scrutiny after it used U.S. taxpayer grants to fund research in Wuhan. The National Institutes of Health said last year that EcoHealth did not comply with multiple parts of a written funding agreement with the U.S. government.

The families in the lawsuit are those of Mary Conroy, of Pennsylvania; Emma D. Holley, of Rochester, NY; Larry Carr, of Crossville, Tennessee; and Raul Osuna, of Bennington, Nebraska. They are seeking unspecified damages. 

The families of the victims "are definitely in mourning, but moreover they’re enraged because the truth of what really happened appears to be coming forward," Finn also said.

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on Twitter or Instagram.

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