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Judge denies Laundries' request to dismiss Petito family lawsuit

The ruling determines only that "Gabby Petito's parents stated a valid claim against Brian Laundrie's parents."

NORTH PORT, Fla. — A lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito's family will remain in court despite the Laundrie family's attempt to get it thrown out.

The lawsuit claims that Brian Laundrie's parents knew he murdered Gabby and were attempting to help him escape. The Laundrie family lawyer, Steven Bertolino, called those claims "baseless" and "frivolous," which is why they filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in March.

On Thursday, a judge denied the Laundries' request, meaning the lawsuit will move forward with a jury trial as planned.

"Today's ruling does not determine what happened to Gabby Petito. Instead, today's ruling is technical in nature. It determines only whether Gabby Petito's parents (the Plaintiffs) stated a valid claim against Brian Laundrie's parents (the Defendants)," the ruling reads.

According to documents filed in the Sarasota County Clerk of Courts, the trial isn't scheduled to happen until 9 a.m. on Aug. 14, 2023.

If the case reaches that point, the trial will last three days and be held at a courthouse in Venice. But, Bertolino previously said that if their motion to dismiss was denied, they would file an appeal — so there's still time for things to change before then.

Bertolino provided this statement to 10 Tampa Bay in response to Thursday's ruling: 

Chris and Roberta Laundrie, and myself, are disappointed with Judge Carroll’s decision to deny the motion and allow this lawsuit to proceed. Judge Carroll points out that the September 14, 2021 statement, standing alone, does not suggest outrage, but within the context of the other allegations in the case, the plaintiffs have met the threshold to go forward to the next phase. The Laundries will continue to use all available legal means to preserve their rights.

The lawsuit

Gabby's parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, claim that on or about Aug. 28, 2021, Laundrie told his parents he had killed his fianceé. It would be that same day that Laundrie's parents contacted their attorney, Bertolino, and sent him a retainer five days later, according to court documents. 

The lawsuit also alleges the Laundries went on a family vacation while Petito's family was "extremely distraught" and that Roberta blocked Nichole's calls, texts, and on Facebook in an "effort to avoid any contact." 

Petito's family claims that as they searched for their daughter, the Laundries kept Brian's whereabouts "secret" and "it is believed were making arrangements for him to leave the country."

Ultimately, according to the lawsuit, this resulted in "intentional infliction of emotional distress" for Petito's family. They are seeking damages in excess of $30,000.

Gabby's disappearance & death

Weeks after Petito left on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé, she was reported missing when Laundrie returned to his North Port home without her. 

Laundrie's refusal to speak to authorities and subsequent disappearance set the internet on fire, with a slew of online personalities vowing to solve the case.

In October, FBI Denver confirmed that Petito's body was found in Bridger-Teton National Forest. The coroner's office determined the initial manner of death was a homicide.

A final autopsy determined she was killed by "manual strangulation," according to the Teton County, Wyoming, coroner. It was estimated that Petito had died three to four weeks before her body was found.

Weeks later, authorities confirmed human remains they found at the Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in Sarasota County belonged to Laundrie. The FBI said the skeletal human remains were identified through a comparison of dental records. 

Authorities would later report that Laundrie died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Last week, photos of Laundrie's notebook, in which he confessed to killing his fiancée, were released to the public.

"I ended her life. I thought it was merciful," the notebook reads.  

"From the moment I decided, I took away her pain, I knew I couldn't go on without her," Laundrie continued. "I am ending my life not because of a fear of punishment but rather because I can't stand to live another day without her."


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