Laundrie family attorney releases statement after civil suit moves forward
SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - The civil suit against the parents of Brian Laundrie will go forward, a Sarasota County judge ruled Thursday. Steven Bertolino, an attorney for the Laundries, has released a statement on behalf of his clients.
Circuit Court Judge Hunter Carroll denied the motion by Christopher and Roberta Laundrie to dismiss the civil suit brought by Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, the parents of Gabby Petito.
The lawsuit alleges the Laundries 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 were in court in Venice on June 22 asking Carroll to dismiss the lawsuit dismissed, saying the murdered girl’s parents simply have not proven their case.
The judge, in his ruling Thursday, disagreed, and put at least part of the blame on the Laundries’ personal lawyer, Steven Bertolino.
On Sept. 14, 2021, after Brian returned to North Port alone -- and five days before Gabby’s body was found in the Wyoming wilderness -- Bertolino, released a statement saying “It is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is re-united with her family. On the advice of counsel the Laundrie family is remaining in the background at this juncture and will have no further comment.”
In his decision, Carroll suggests the Laundries are responsible for statements made by their attorney. “Had the Laundries truly stayed silent, the court would have granted the motion to dismiss in the Laundries’ favor,” Judge Carroll wrote. “But they did not stay silent.”
“Because the Laundries’ statement by their attorney in the context of the unique facts of this case is objectively outrageous, the Court concludes that Plantiffs have stated causes of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Laundries. The Court denied the Laundries’ motion to dismiss.” the order says.
Gabby and her fiancé, Brian Laundrie, were on a cross-county journey last year, documenting the trip on social media, when Gabby suddenly disappeared on Aug. 25, 2021. Brian returned home -- alone -- to North Port with Gabby’s vehicle.
In September 2021, 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. A notebook near his body contained a confession letter, in which he claims it was a mercy killing after Gabby suffered a head injury after falling.
A confession letter recovered near his remains was released last Friday to the media. Brian accepted responsibility for the killing, calling it “merciful.” The Laundrie’s out-of-state attorney Steven Bertolino and the Petito family’s attorney, Patrick Reilly both released the confession to ABC7.
Steven Bertolino released the following statement on behalf of the Laundries, “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 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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