SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFTX) — A judge has denied a motion to dismiss a civil lawsuit stemming from the death of Gabby Petito at the hands of her fiancé, Brian Laundrie.
Chris and Roberta Laundrie have tried multiple times, most recently last week, to have the lawsuit filed by Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt tossed.
Gabby’s parents claim intentional infliction of emotional distress by the Laundries, alleging they knew their son had strangled her to death, had left the body in Wyoming, and had not given the Petitos information that would have given them closure sooner.
In the June 22 hearing, Judge Hunter Carroll repeatedly asked about the legal duty that the Laundries had to volunteer any information they had to Schmidt and Petito.
The Laundries’ lawyer stated that they had no legal obligation to speak up to Schmidt and Petito, since no one was compelling them to speak (i.e. with specific questions).
However, the judge pointed out, that the Laundries had spoken publicly, through the auspices of attorney Steven Bertolino. During the search for Petito’s whereabouts in Sept. 2021, Bertolino said in a statement, “On behalf of the Laundrie family, it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that [she] is reunited with her family.
“If the facts of this case truly were about silence,” the judge’s opinion continues, “the Court would have resolved this case in the Laundries’ favor.”
“Because the Laundries’ statement by their attorney in the context of the unique facts of this case is objectively outrageous,” the judge wrote, “the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have stated causes of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Laundries.”
Pending any further filings, a jury trial is set to begin in August 2023.
This story was originally published June 30 by WFTX in Fort Myers-Naples, an E.W. Scripps Company.