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New York-based EcoHealth Alliance is being sued by the families of four people who contracted COVID and died, claiming the lab bears responsibility for the pandemic and their loved ones’ deaths.
The families allege that the health alliance, which previously received a U.S. grant for bat virus research that partly funded studies at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, is responsible for “either intentionally or accidentally” releasing COVID, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month at Manhattan Supreme Court. The families are suing for unspecified damages.
“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,” Patricia Finn, a lawyer for the families, told The New York Post.
The lawsuit alleges that EcoHealth Alliance President Peter Daszak knew that the virus was being studied at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and that the organization knew it was “capable of causing a worldwide pandemic.”
“[The families of the deceased] are definitely in mourning, but moreover they’re enraged because the truth of what really happened appears to be coming forward,” Finn said.
The suit was filed on behalf of deceased family members Mary Conroy, Emma D. Holley, Larry Carr, and Raul Osuna.
Daszak and the EcoHealth Alliance have come under increasing scrutiny over their ties to Wuhan, where several government agencies believe that COVID likely escaped from a lab. He had been part of the World Health Organization-China team that dismissed the lab leak hypothesis as “extremely unlikely.”
The alliance worked on coronavirus research with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, supported by millions of dollars in grants from the National Institutes of Health. Last year the group denied claims by the NIH that it failed to properly report its findings.
Dr. Andrew Huff, a former vice president of the EcoHealth Alliance, believes that COVID was genetically engineered and leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. He has pinned some of the blame on foreign groups working in China.
“EcoHealth Alliance and foreign laboratories did not have the adequate control measures in place for ensuring proper biosafety, biosecurity, and risk management, ultimately resulting in the lab leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology,” Huff wrote in a book published earlier this year.
Daniel Chaitin contributed to this report.