Court holds first hearing for families of Brian Laundrie, Gabby Petito for death-related damages

The family of Brian Laundrie had their first court hearing Wednesday afternoon for a lawsuit against them by the parents of Gabby Petito for damages related to her death.Brian Laundrie’s parents filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The Laundries did not attend the hearing in person. One of their attorneys, Steve Bertolino, attended virtually, while his co-counsel, Matthew Luka, appeared in person.A judge asked Luka several questions throughout his arguments during the hearing. Luka argued that though the Petito family claims the Laundries had an obligation to speak up during the investigation into Gabby Petito’s disappearance, they were free not to speak.“My argument is that even if Brian Laundrie conveys information to his parents, that they don’t have a requirement than to speak with regard to that information. They don’t have to share it,” Luka said.Petito family attorney Patrick Reilly argued that the case wasn’t only about the Laundries’ silence, but also about what did with the information they had.“They didn’t just remain silent. Brian Laundrie came home in Gabby Petito’s van by himself to his family’s home, a family knowing that Gabby was dead, knowing their son had murdered her, knowing where the body was, and in particular, knowing that Joseph Petito and Nicole Schmidt were desperate to learn where their daughter was located. They went on vacation,” Reilly said.Gabby Petito’s body was found in a Wyoming national park and Brian Laundrie was later found in a Florida preserve with a notebook claiming he killed her. He died by suicide.Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt sued Christopher and Roberta Laundrie for action damages exceeding $30,000 and attorney fees, the document shows. The plaintiffs claim that the Laundries knew the location of the remains of Gabby Petito, and in not saying what happened, they “acted with malice or great indifference” to their rights. Their behavior “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,” according to the lawsuit.The plaintiffs said they suffered as a direct result of these actions.The Laundrie family attorney, Steve Bertolino, responded to WPBF 25’s request for comment.”As I have maintained over the last several months, the Laundries have not publicly commented at my direction which is their right under the law,” Bertolino said in a statement. “Assuming everything the Petitos allege in their lawsuit is true, which we deny, this lawsuit does not change the fact that the Laundries had no obligation to speak to Law Enforcement or any third party including the Petito family. This fundamental legal principle renders the Petitos’ claims to be baseless under the law.”The Laundrie family filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming several reasons.According to the complaint, there was too much media attention that would cause prejudice in a court of law.The Laundries’ attorney also states that the Laundries’ “fundamental constitutional rights to silence, privacy and representation of counsel,” which are also the first, fifth and sixth amendments, are the reasons the Petitos are claiming emotional distress.In determining a legal ground for emotional distress, the complaint concludes that because of the Constitutional right to remain silent, the inaction of the Laundries cannot be qualified as “outrageous” and determined so by a judge.The Laundries also claimed that the issue happened several months ago and the Petitos claim of wanting to find the body of their daughter was resolved. Bertolino, released the following statement:“A motion to dismiss the baseless and frivolous lawsuit commenced by Gabby Petito‘s parents was filed in court. The Laundries have exercised their constitutional right to refrain from speaking and have relied on counsel to speak for them. This is not only common practice in our civilized society but it embodies the exercise of fundamental rights under the United States and Florida Constitutions. The Laundries’ rights are inalienable and the Laundries can never be liable for exercising their legal rights in a permissible way. Myself and my colleagues at Trombley & Hanes, who are representing Chris and Roberta Laundrie in this matter, are confident that the constitutional rights of all citizens of this country will be protected by the dismissal of this lawsuit.”

The family of Brian Laundrie had their first court hearing Wednesday afternoon for a lawsuit against them by the parents of Gabby Petito for damages related to her death.

Brian Laundrie’s parents filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

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The Laundries did not attend the hearing in person. One of their attorneys, Steve Bertolino, attended virtually, while his co-counsel, Matthew Luka, appeared in person.

A judge asked Luka several questions throughout his arguments during the hearing. Luka argued that though the Petito family claims the Laundries had an obligation to speak up during the investigation into Gabby Petito’s disappearance, they were free not to speak.

“My argument is that even if Brian Laundrie conveys information to his parents, that they don’t have a requirement than to speak with regard to that information. They don’t have to share it,” Luka said.

Petito family attorney Patrick Reilly argued that the case wasn’t only about the Laundries’ silence, but also about what did with the information they had.

“They didn’t just remain silent. Brian Laundrie came home in Gabby Petito’s van by himself to his family’s home, a family knowing that Gabby was dead, knowing their son had murdered her, knowing where the body was, and in particular, knowing that Joseph Petito and Nicole Schmidt were desperate to learn where their daughter was located. They went on vacation,” Reilly said.

Gabby Petito’s body was found in a Wyoming national park and Brian Laundrie was later found in a Florida preserve with a notebook claiming he killed her. He died by suicide.

Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt sued Christopher and Roberta Laundrie for action damages exceeding $30,000 and attorney fees, the document shows.

The plaintiffs claim that the Laundries knew the location of the remains of Gabby Petito, and in not saying what happened, they “acted with malice or great indifference” to their rights. Their behavior “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,” according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs said they suffered as a direct result of these actions.

The Laundrie family attorney, Steve Bertolino, responded to WPBF 25’s request for comment.

“As I have maintained over the last several months, the Laundries have not publicly commented at my direction which is their right under the law,” Bertolino said in a statement. “Assuming everything the Petitos allege in their lawsuit is true, which we deny, this lawsuit does not change the fact that the Laundries had no obligation to speak to Law Enforcement or any third party including the Petito family. This fundamental legal principle renders the Petitos’ claims to be baseless under the law.”

The Laundrie family filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming several reasons.

According to the complaint, there was too much media attention that would cause prejudice in a court of law.

The Laundries’ attorney also states that the Laundries’ “fundamental constitutional rights to silence, privacy and representation of counsel,” which are also the first, fifth and sixth amendments, are the reasons the Petitos are claiming emotional distress.

In determining a legal ground for emotional distress, the complaint concludes that because of the Constitutional right to remain silent, the inaction of the Laundries cannot be qualified as “outrageous” and determined so by a judge.

The Laundries also claimed that the issue happened several months ago and the Petitos claim of wanting to find the body of their daughter was resolved.

Bertolino, released the following statement:

“A motion to dismiss the baseless and frivolous lawsuit commenced by Gabby Petito‘s parents was filed in court. The Laundries have exercised their constitutional right to refrain from speaking and have relied on counsel to speak for them. This is not only common practice in our civilized society but it embodies the exercise of fundamental rights under the United States and Florida Constitutions. The Laundries’ rights are inalienable and the Laundries can never be liable for exercising their legal rights in a permissible way. Myself and my colleagues at Trombley & Hanes, who are representing Chris and Roberta Laundrie in this matter, are confident that the constitutional rights of all citizens of this country will be protected by the dismissal of this lawsuit.”

Contributed by local news sources

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