Gabby Petito's family faces off against Brian Laundrie's parents in court

Kristin Thorne Image
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
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The parents of Gabby Petito were in court Wednesday as they sue Brian Laundrie's parents. Kristin Thorne has the latest details.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Lawyers for Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie faced off in a Florida courtroom on Wednesday in regards to a civil lawsuit filed three months ago by the Petito family against the Laundrie's.

The judge in Sarasota County said he would issue a written decision in a few weeks regarding whether the Petito's lawsuit should go to a jury trial.

The lawyer for the Petito's argued that the Laundrie's caused the Petito's pain, suffering and mental anguish by not telling them what they knew about Gabby's death.

The Petito's allege in their lawsuit, which was filed in March, that Brian's parents, Chris and Roberta Laundrie, knew for more than a week that Brian had killed Gabby and the location of Gabby's body.

They also allege that the Laundrie's had plans to help Brian escape the country.

"The Laundrie's should be responsible for their conduct and what they did after they knew that Gabby was dead and where her body was located," Patrick Reilly, the attorney for the Petito family, said.

Joseph Petito, Gabby's father, and her mother, Nicole Schmidt, sat together in court. Schmidt held a tissue and cried on and off during the approximately 90-minute court proceeding. The Laundries did not appear.

The attorney for the Laundrie's argued to the judge the basis of their motion to dismiss the Petito lawsuit, which is based on the belief that the Laundrie's had a constitutional right to remain silent and did not have to tell anybody what they may or may not have known about Gabby's disappearance and death.

MORE: Police body cam video shows Gabby Petito, boyfriend after 911 call

The judge even asked Reilly what legal duty the Laundrie's had to the Petito's.

Reilly admitted to the judge that's a question even Reilly, himself, has struggled with, but argued that it's not about the Laundrie's legal duty, but their "course of conduct."

As for the attorney for the Laundrie family, the judge asked him why the Laundrie's would have access to a constitutional right of silence if they didn't commit a crime.

Attorney P. Matthew Luka argued that the Laundrie's feared future prosecution of a crime and thus did have access to the Fifth Amendment.

The judge fired back that the Laundrie's did issue a statement through their attorney during the time that investigators were looking for Gabby saying that they hoped Gabby was found and reunited with her family.

"Aren't we responsible for the words that we say when we say them?" Judge Hunter Carroll asked Luka.

Luka agreed.

Luka also told the judge that it would be a waste of judicial resources to send the case to trial only for a jury to decide what they already knew, which is the Laundrie's were only executing their constitutional rights and did not inflict intentional pain and suffering on the Petito family.

If the judge decides the Petito's case has enough evidence and should proceed, the jury trial is scheduled to begin August 2023.

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