The lawsuit filed by the parents of Gabby Petito against Brian Laundrie’s parents has been scheduled for a jury trial in August 2023 in Sarasota County, Florida.
But the attorney for Chris and Roberta Laundrie filed a motion on March 31 to dismiss the civil lawsuit, which accuses them of intentionally inflicting emotional duress because their son told them he’d killed Petito before he even returned to Florida, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
Instead, they chose not to tell Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt that their daughter was dead and immediately put attorney Steven Bartolino on retainer.
Bartolino, in his motion to dismiss, said the Laundries had a constitutional right not to speak and that they “continuously relied on counsel to speak for them.”
Judge Hunter W. Carroll has given Petito and Schmidt’s attorneys 20 days to file an amended complaint to correct a “perceived procedural deficiency” in the lawsuit, after which he is expected to rule on Bartolino’s motion, WFLA reported.
“To be clear, the Court in today’s order is not passing on Defendants’ arguments that this lawsuit should be dismissed with prejudice,” Carroll wrote. “The Court’s intent is to address the perceived procedural deficiency before addressing the merits of Defendants’ motion.”
Pat Reilly, the attorney for Petito and Schmidt, said the amended complaint will declare “separate causes of action on behalf of the Petito family against the Laundries.”
“The court will have to decide whether the motion to dismiss has any merit, which I don’t believe it does,” he said.
The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $100,000 for the pain and mental anguish caused by the “willfullness and maliciousness” of the Laundries, who, it says, learned about Gabby Petito’s death from their son “on or about” August 28. The lawsuit also accuses them of making plans to get Brian Laundrie out of the country, even as Petito’s parents were desperately seeking word of their daughter.
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito were on a cross-county van trip that started earlier in the summer. Petito had kept in close contact with her parents and stepparents, but abruptly stopped near the end of August 2021. Laundrie returned to his parents’ Florida home on September 1, allegedly using Petito’s bank card to pay for his trip home in the van alone.
Petito was reported missing on September 11, and her body was found at a remote campsite in Wyoming eight days later. An autopsy determined she died from strangulation.
Laundrie, meanwhile, had left his parents home on September 14 to go “hiking” and never returned. His body was found in November with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Reilly, the Petito family attorney, said he has a “high confidence level” the lawsuit will reach a jury trial, if it’s not settled out of court before that time. The lawsuit says there is evidence to back up the claims the Laundries’ attorney says are “baseless.”
“They’ll have to wait and see,” Reilly told WFLA when asked about the evidence. “If we didn’t believe it was true, we wouldn’t have put them in the complaint.”
The Laundries, who still have not spoken publicly, have repeatedly said through Bartolino that they did nothing wrong.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast.
[Featured image: Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie/Instagram]