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Judge Says Gabby Petito Family's Suit Going To Trial, Calls Laundrie Family's Actions 'Cruel'
A judge has ruled that a civil lawsuit filed against Brian Laundrie's parents by Gabby Petito's family will move forward.
Calling the alleged actions of the Laundrie family “cruel,” a Florida circuit court judge has denied a motion to dismiss the civil lawsuit against them filed by the family of Gabby Petito.
"Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie 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," the Thursday filing, obtained by People, states.
In it, Judge Hunter Carroll said that their actions, as alleged in the lawsuit, were "particularly callous and cruel."
Earlier this year, Gabby’s father Joseph Petito, her mother Nichole Schmidt and their respective spouses filed a civil lawsuit alleging that Brian Laundrie’s parents attempted to help their son flee justice knowing that he'd killed Petito. They are seeking $30,000 in damages for "extreme and outrageous conduct” from Christopher and Roberta Laundrie.
The Laundrie family had tried to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that they didn’t need to disclose information about their son or what had happened to Gabby.
The judge agreed with the Laundrie family that they were not obligated to share any information with the Petito family while their daughter was still considered missing, but suggested they may have gone beyond simply not sharing information.
"If the facts of this case were truly about silence with no affirmative action by the Laundries, the court would have resolved this case in the Laundries' favor on the concept of the lack of legal duty for the Laundries to act," Carroll ruled.
The Petito family alleges that Roberta Laundrie blocked Gabby's mother's phone number and Facebook profile during the search for Gabby, and that the statement the Laundries issued on Sept. 14 — in which they wrote "it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family" — came after they already knew she was dead.
"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," said Laundrie family lawyer Steven Bertolino.
"Chris and Roberta Laundrie and myself, are disappointed with Judge Carroll’s decision to deny the motion and allow this lawsuit to proceed," he added. "The Laundries will continue to use all available legal means to preserve their rights."
In the civil lawsuit, Petito’s parents claim that the Laundries knew "the whereabouts” of their daughter’s body when they took Brian on vacation with them to Fort De Soto Park in Florida, CNN reports. The trip was taken after Brian, 23, returned to his parents' home in North Port, Florida without Gabby, 22 in early September of last year.
The couple had been on a cross-country trip when Gabby vanished. A few days after returning to his parents, Brian — who had been classified by police as a person of interest in Gabby's disappearance — also vanished.
Petito's remains were found in Wyoming on Sept. 19; she had been strangled to death, likely weeks before she was found. After investigators found Laundrie's body in a Florida nature preserve in October following a weeks-long manhunt, they determined he died from a self-inflicted gunshot. The FBI determined in January that he was responsible for Gabby’s murder.
Earlier this month, Laundrie’s final notebook entries, in which he admitted to killing Gabby, were released.