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Judge in Petito-Laundrie case to decide whether it goes to trial in 2 weeks

The parents of Gabby Petito filed a lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's parents citing "intentional infliction of emotional distress."

VENICE, Fla. — Wednesday saw the pre-trial hearing in the lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito's family against Brian Laundrie's parents, who didn't show up in the courtroom.

Judge Hunter W. Carroll will make his decision on whether the lawsuit will proceed to a jury trial or if the Laundrie's motion to dismiss the lawsuit will be granted within two weeks from Wednesday.

This decision comes after he heard arguments from attorneys representing both Gabby's parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, and Brian's, Chris and Roberta Laundrie. 

The parents of Gabby filed a lawsuit against the Laundries citing "intentional infliction of emotional distress" in their failure to report their alleged knowledge of Gabby's death.

In response, the Laundrie family's attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint – calling it baseless and citing the Laundrie's right to remain silent and the lack of a legal duty to report their knowledge.

Schmidt, Gabby's mother, wiped away tears as the Petito family's lawyer, Patrick Reilly, reviewed the lawsuit's claims.

In the amended complaint, the Petito family claims the Laundries knew Brian murdered their daughter, knew the whereabouts of Gabby's body and attempted to aid Brian in leaving the country.

Despite this, the Laundrie family attorney, Steven Bertolino, made a statement in September on behalf of the Laundries regarding the search for Gabby's body, which Reilly said gave the Petitos hope when the Laundries knew there was none. 

"It is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family," the statement read. 

Reilly argued that for the Laundries to express their "hope" when they knew she was killed by their son was outrageous. 

The complaint also claims the Laundries took Brian on vacation with the knowledge of Gabby's murder.

"They assumed and continued their normal life as though nothing had happened while this family was suffering wanting to know where their daughter was," Reilly said in court Wednesday.

Reilly claims the Laundrie's actions fall under an outrageous course of conduct. 

However, the Laundries Florida attorney, Matthew Luka, said their position is straightforward: there is no legal footing for the Petito family's lawsuit. 

"Conduct that amounts to remaining silent and maintaining privacy is not intentional infliction of emotional distress," Luka said Wednesday. 

While the Petito family's lawsuit claims the Laundries had a duty to speak about their knowledge of Gabby, Luka argued "the law imposes no such obligation to speak."

He also addressed the claim of outrageous conduct on the Laundrie's part. Luka explained that the standards for outrageous conduct are extremely high in Florida and argued that the Laundrie's actions do not fall under this. 

While the judge delayed the decision for two weeks, if the lawsuit proceeds to jury trial, it is expected to be scheduled sometime in early 2023.

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