The Daily Gamecock

Column: Sue government over COVID-19 deaths

Gross negligence on behalf of the federal government is causing more people to die of coronavirus since measures weren't properly taken at the beginning of the pandemic. So, why not sue the government for criminally negligent homicide?

Gross negligence doesn’t have to be anything illegal that harms someone, just the conscious and voluntary decision to avoid using reasonable care in an effort to avoid harm.

Criminally negligent homicide is the same as involuntary manslaughter; it just depends on which state you’re in. This is when someone doesn’t mean to cause the death of another person but does due to gross negligence. The federal government very much has committed gross negligence when it comes to handling the coronavirus. 

The first case of coronavirus in the United States was reported on Jan. 21. Nine days later, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global health emergency “of international concern”. Something could have happened here. Yes, Trump stopped entry to the country by foreigners who had been to China in the last 14 days, but by then the virus had spread across eastern Asia and Europe. A plan could have been put into place at the same time most other countries with the virus were taking action, but it wasn’t.

The most egregious is yet to come: States fighting for resources. Trump said in numerous press conferences that states would have to outbid each other for personal protective equipment (PPE) and respirators. The federal government also outbid states for medical equipment after Trump told state governors on a conference call that they were on their own for this.

Even when states get medical supplies they desperately need from the federal government per their requests, the distribution appeared politically motivated. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has gotten multiple shipments of everything he requested at the federal level, while Massachusetts received about 17% of what it asked for. Michigan received 112,00 masks, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that amount would leave medical staff “in dire straits” in days at the end of March. That’s very odd, since in a rank of states where the virus is now spreading the fastest, Massachusetts is 14th, Michigan is 22nd and Florida is 29th. Florida also has thousands fewer cases than either of those states.

What a coincidence that Ron DeSantis is a Republican, who Trump personally helped get elected, and that Whitmer is a Democrat, who Trump has vocalized his distaste for. Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Maasachuseetts, is heavily aligned with the governors of the other north eastern states of New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware and has followed their stricter measures compared to the directives from the president.

What would you call it if the person and his administration in charge of protecting their country from harm ignores a plague until it’s too late, forcing states to scavenge for supplies and giving more federal aid to political allies, which causes more infections and more deaths? Criminal negligence and negligent homicide when it leads to death.

However, you can't arrest the government. You can, though, sue the government. 

After Hurricane Katrina, thousands of people sued FEMA for criminal negligence after FEMA denied suitable living conditions to people that were suddenly homeless. FEMA provided some families with trailers that were poisonous in numerous ways, which the agency knew about. This is probably the closest case to the current day in comparison to the sheer size and incompetence observed now. This proves people won cases over criminal negligence then, and people can win now.

But why not just say people who have contracted or have family members who have contracted the coronavirus can sue for criminal negligence? Why also sue for criminally negligent homicide? 

To make a point, tens of thousands of people have died. The Trump administration had months to make a plan and to put measures in place. Even the administration's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, admitted doing anything earlier would have saved lives.

That’s avoiding reasonable care to save lives and avoid suffering. That’s criminal negligence. That’s criminal negligence on behalf of the government that led to death, and that’s criminally negligent homicide.