A judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by New York state residents claiming that the World Health Organization (WHO) negligently responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the complaint filed last April, plaintiffs alleged that the WHO failed to “properly monitor the response to the Coronavirus pandemic in China generally and within Hubei Province and the City of Wuhan.” Additionally, the complaint alleged that the WHO failed to promulgate the correct treatment guidelines and appropriately guide its members on how to respond to the pandemic. The complaint also stated that the WHO and the Chinese government conspired together to “cover-up the severity of the COVID-19 heath pandemic” by “intentionally mislead[ing] the international community … about the coronavirus and its devastating medical and economic effects.”
The WHO filed a motion to dismiss in November 2. In her opinion and order, Judge Cathy Seibel wrote that the WHO may have been immune from suit under its own constitution, but she was convinced that the WHO is entitled to the immunities conferred upon them by the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA) after being designated a public international organization by then-president Harry Truman via a 1948 executive order. Furthermore, Seibel found that The Non-Commercial Tort Exception was inapplicable in this case because the plaintiffs failed to show that the tortious action and damage occurred within the US, as required by the “entire tort” rule. Seibel also noted that even if the plaintiffs were able to satisfy the entire tort rule, the WHO would retain immunity under the “discretionary acts” exception as a judgment grounded in an assessment of public health risk is a discretionary consideration of public policy.
Seibel did not grant the plaintiffs leave to amend and closed the case.