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Coronavirus: lawyer may sue Belgian State for casualties

Brussels lawyer Hamid El Abouti is looking into collective action against the state. Credit: Belga

Brussels lawyer Hamid El Abouti is looking into the possibility of conducting a class-action lawsuit involving the civil responsibility of the state in coronavirus related deaths.

A dozen families of people who died from the new coronavirus (Covid-19) have approached El Abouti, SudInfo reported on Monday. The class action would require a group of at least 50 victims in order to go forward.

The lawyer is scrutinising the late closing of borders and the time it took to stop flights to Italy and China, as well as the first quarantine placements, the decisions regarding orders for face masks and breathing devices, and the way the state has carried out tests.

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The state might thus be held accountable by failing to manage the coronavirus crisis. “In particular, its late decision-making in the early stages of the infection is in the hot seat,” SudInfo reported. Lack of foresight in loosening the lockdown measures could lead to prosecution as well if the process leads to a new wave of deaths, El Abouti said.

That said, you have to demonstrate damage, fault and a causal link, but the Belgian system is complex and it can be hard to pinpoint responsibility, according to El Abouti.

As of Monday, 5,828 Belgians have died from coronavirus, though many of these are not confirmed coronavirus deaths, as Belgium also counts suspected cases.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times