At least 6,105 people have been confirmed to have the virus in Missouri and at least 229 have died, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University.
Schmitt, in his official role as attorney general of Missouri, filed the civil lawsuit in federal court in the eastern district of Missouri.
The lawsuit, the first of its kind, claims "Chinese authorities deceived the public, suppressed crucial information, arrested whistleblowers, denied human-to-human transmission in the face of mounting evidence, destroyed critical medical research, permitted millions of people to be exposed to the virus, and even hoarded personal protective equipment—thus causing a global pandemic that was unnecessary and preventable."
Legal experts have said the lawsuit faces an uphill battle because China is protected by sovereign immunity. CNN is reaching out to the Chinese government for comment.
Missouri's lawsuit alleges that while the Chinese medical community had indications of human-to-human transmission of the virus, they did not inform the World Health Organization when they first reported the outbreak.
It also alleges Chinese leaders did little to curb spread of the virus, still allowing thousands of people to travel to and out of Wuhan.
"In mid-January, on or around January 16, despite knowing the risks of doing so, Wuhan leaders hosted a potluck dinner for 40,000 residents, increasing the potential spread of the virus," it says. "Defendants allowed these massive public gatherings and massive exodus from Wuhan despite knowing the risks of COVID-19, including the risk of human-to-human transmission."
The filing also outlines how officials initially cracked down on medical professionals who posted information about the virus, including Dr. Li Wenliang, who was accused of rumor-mongering by the Wuhan police after sharing information about a new illness with his medical school alumni group. Wenliang later died of the virus.
The state also alleges China hoarded PPE while concealing the outbreak and that the small amounts they have released have been "faulty."