Definitive proof, if found, that a laboratory accident at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) may have caused the Chinese coronavirus pandemic has the potential to break the nearly impenetrable shield of sovereign immunity protecting China from lawsuits by American victims of the virus.
American law protects foreign state powers from litigation on behalf of private persons through the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). Mainstream diplomatic thought holds that sovereign immunity is a desirable policy to limit the power that individual citizens have to meddle in foreign policy, concentrating diplomatic powers in the state. The conventional wisdom holds that a legal system that allows any one citizen to demand redress from a foreign state, thus outraging it, gives that citizen the power to potentially destroy ties that the two governments may have spent decades building, making for a volatile system.
The FSIA text does allow for lawsuits by