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Hearing to weigh motion to dismiss civil suit against parents of Brian Laundrie

The FBI confirmed a body found in Wyoming's Grand Tetons last week is Gabby Petito.
The FBI confirmed a body found in Wyoming's Grand Tetons last week is Gabby Petito.
Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 4:44 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Lawyers for the parents of Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie are expected in Sarasota County Court Wednesday in a hearing to discuss a motion to dismiss a civil suit against the Laundries.

Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt filed a civil suit against Christopher and Roberta Laundrie after their daughter, Gabby Petito, was murdered in Wyoming.

Gabby and her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, were on a cross-county journey last year, documenting the trip on social media, when Gabby suddenly disappeared Aug. 25, 2021. Brian returned home -- alone -- to North Port.

In September, Petito’s body was found in a remote area in a national park in Wyoming. The cause of death was ruled to be strangulation.

Brian Laundrie disappeared Sept. 17, 2021. His remains were eventually found in Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park near his home, and the cause of death was ruled as a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The civil lawsuit alleges Christopher and Roberta Laundrie knew their son had killed their daughter and said nothing; and were conspiring to help him flee. It asks for damages for pain and suffering, accusing the couple of acting “with great malice or great indifference to the rights of Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt.”

The suit also claims the Laundries refusal to divulge any information about their daughter’s death “exhibited extreme and outrageous conduct which constitutes behavior, under the circumstances, which goes beyond all possible bounds of decency and is regarded as shocking, atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

Attorneys for the Laundries filed motion to have the lawsuit dismissed, saying the murdered girl’s parents simply have not proven their case.

“There are no facts that could support the cause of action and the Court should dismiss the Complaint with prejudice,” the latest motion says.

The lawsuit contends that the Laundries concealed that their son had confessed to the murder from investigators and Petito’s parents while the search for Gabby Petito was ongoing, intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

“In doing so, Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie acted with malice or great indifference to the rights of (Gabby’s parents) Joseph Petito and Nicole Schmidt,” the lawsuit claims, adding that this conduct was “shocking, atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

The lawsuit adds that the Laundries were “making arrangements for him (Brian) to leave the country.”

The Laundries have explained that their choice to stay silent during Gabby’s disappearance is “What most people would and should do.”

Steven Bertolino, the attorney for the Laundries, has said the civil suit is baseless. “The amended complaint did not aver any new facts or cite any law that would support the legally baseless claim. We are confident our current motion to dismiss the amended complaint will be granted.”

Bertolino argued the Laundries’ decisions to talk only with their attorney while Gabby was missing were “legally permissible, constitutionally protected, not outrageous, and do not give rise to any cause of action,” and that the suit should be thrown out.

The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $30,000. If the case is not dismissed, a jury trial has been set for the week of Aug. 14, 2023.

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