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Judge Denies Motion To Limit Questions In Depositions For Civil Lawsuit Filed by Gabby Petito's Family

A Florida judge denied a bid by Brian Laundrie's parents to limit the scope of questions they would face in depositions for a civil lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito's family.

By Constance Johnson
The Gabby Petito Case, Explained

A Florida judge denied a motion on Tuesday filed by Brian Laundrie’s parents to restrict questions in depositions for a civil lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito’s parents.

Matthew Luka, an attorney for Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, said that questions about the final days of Laundrie’s life, his interactions with his parents and their feelings about his suicide would add additional harm to the family already suffering and devastated by the tragedy, according to Court TV.

They specifically wanted to avoid questions regarding  “irrelevant matters” to protect them from “annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, undue burden and expense,” WFLA reported.

“This has been a truly heartbreaking experience for both families,” the Laundries' attorneys wrote in the motion, according to WFLA. “The public who followed the case and the Plaintiffs are likely curious about Brian Laundrie’s life, his last days, his interaction with his parents, and the thoughts and feelings experienced by his parents. But curiosity is not a reason to require the Defendants to discuss such personal and heart wrenching details. Rather, the discovery must be relevant to the cause of action at issue.”

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Patrick Reilly, the attorney for Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, argued that the line of questioning was critical to reaching a resolution in the case.

Brian Laundrie Gabby Pettito Pd

Judge Hunter W. Carrol found the proposed restrictions were “overly narrow and would preclude directly related evidence,” according to Court TV.

“The court notes that there really has been no showing of any prior misconduct by the plaintiffs,” Carroll said during Tuesday’s hearing on the motion, according to WFLA. “We normally would not issue such an order without either some showing of something going on other than that the fact that there’s a lot of media scrutiny.”

Carroll also denied Luka’s request to appoint an expert to manage the deposition proceedings. He said it was unnecessary because of the quality and experience of the attorneys representing both families, according to Court TV.

“Yes, there’s media here, but at the end of the day, you are both lawyers. You know how to conduct yourselves. You know the rules. And so, I trust both of you,” Carroll reportedly said.

Petito vanished over the summer while on a cross-country road trip with her fiancé Brian Laundrie. The case riveted the nation and was intensely covered by media around the globe. After an expansive search, Petito’s remains were discovered on September 19 in Grand Teton National Forest in Wyoming. Laundrie’s body was discovered several weeks after Petito’s at Florida’s Carlton Reserve.

The FBI determined that Laundrie died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head and said he left a notebook in which he confessed to Petito’s murder.  

The Petito family claims in their lawsuit that Laundrie’s parents knew he murdered Gabby but refused to share that information or cooperate with the investigation. They have also accused the Laundries of trying to help their son escape.

“I appreciate what attorney Luka filed, and why he filed it. He’s just doing what his clients want him to do,” Reilly told WFLA. “But in my opinion and my clients’ opinion, this is just another example of the Laundries wanting to keep information from getting out to show what their part was in all of this, so we’re really pleased with the court’s decision today and believe it was the right decision.”

He told the station that the depositions were scheduled to take place on Dec. 1, but he wants to postpone until he gets the results from his Freedom of Information Act request from the FBI’s investigation of Petito’s disappearance.

Luka told WFLA that he was disappointed by the judge’s ruling but was preparing to move on to the depositions.

“Obviously we’re disappointed that [Judge Carroll] didn’t rule in our favor, but we have a great judge, and he gives a lot of consideration to our arguments, so I appreciate the thought he gave to our case,” Luka said. “The depositions will go forward. And I know that Mr. Reilly and I will work together to make sure that the questions that are asked are reasonable and fair.”