Gabby Petito's parents settle 'wrongful-death' suit against Laundries for $3M

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Thursday, November 17, 2022
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The family of "Gabby" Petito settled their wrongful-death lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's estate for $3 million. Kristen Thorne has the story.

SARASOTA, Florida (WABC) -- The family of Gabby Petito settled their wrongful-death lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's estate for $3 million.

A circuit judge of Sarasota County in Florida ruled in favor Gabby Petito's family in a wrongful death lawsuit that they filed against Laundrie's estate back in May.

Petito's family filed their original complaint against Laundrie's estate back on May 6, asking for over $30,000 in damages that they incurred for funeral and burial expenses.

The complaint also claimed that Petito's family "suffered a loss of care and comfort, and suffered a loss of probably future companionship, society, and comfort."

Brian Laundrie's parents, Roberta and Christopher Laundrie, were administrators of their son's estate.

Attorney Patrick Reilly said no amount of money is enough, but whatever the family gets will go to the Gabby Petito Foundation.

The Laundrie family attorney released a statement in response to the settlement.

"At the last court conference for this claim against Brian's Estate I indicated to Judge Carroll that I would work with attorney Reilly to find a resolution to the wrongful death claim to avoid the expense of a trial when the outcome of a money judgment was unavoidable," the statement read. "Working with Pat Reilly, and Matt Luka from Trombley and Hanes, we reached an agreement to settle the wrongful death claim for $3 million. Hopefully, this brings some closure to this one chapter of this tragedy and I look forward to working with Pat Reilly to resolve the litigation pending against Chris and Roberta."

Thursday's settlement does not impact a separate lawsuit.

In a civil lawsuit filed in Florida in March against Laundrie's parents, Petito's parents alleged that Laundrie's parents knew he killed her and were trying to help him flee. Attorneys for the Laundries denied the allegations and unsuccessfully sought to dismiss the lawsuit. A jury trial in the case is scheduled to begin in August 2023.

Additionally, earlier in November, the Petitos filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Moab City Police Department, alleging its officers were negligent in their interactions with the 22-year-old and her fiancé two weeks before her death last summer.

"The purpose of this lawsuit is to honor Gabby's legacy by demanding accountability and working toward systemic changes to protect victims of domestic abuse and violence and prevent such tragedies in the future," attorney James W. McConkie said in a statement.

The lawsuit accuses the department and its officers of failing to follow the law and failing to protect Petito during an investigation into a domestic disturbance in August -- just weeks before Brian Laundrie killed her.

The City of Moab issued a statement at the time denying responsibility for her death and saying it would defend against the lawsuit.

"The death of Gabrielle Petito in Wyoming is a terrible tragedy, and we feel profound sympathy for the Petito and Schmidt families and the painful loss they have endured. At the same time, it is clear that Moab City Police Department officers are not responsible for Gabrielle Petito's eventual murder," the city said.

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Petito was 22 when she and her fiancé, Laundrie, 23, embarked on a road trip through the American West last summer, documenting their #VanLife experiences online in idyllic, sun-drenched posts.

Despite their online appearance, their relationship was rocky and at turns violent. Petito was reported missing after Laundrie returned to his parents' Florida home on September 1 and her parents were unable to contact her, sparking a nationwide hunt that became a fascination for online sleuths.

Her body was found several weeks later in Grand Teton National Forest, and a coroner ruled she died by strangulation. Laundrie subsequently went missing in a Florida nature preserve, and his body was found in mid-October alongside a notebook in which he admitted killing her.

A review of the Moab Police Department's handling of the incident by an independent investigator -- a captain with the police department in Price, Utah, about 115 miles away -- recommended the two officers who responded be placed on probation, saying they made "several unintentional mistakes" -- namely failing to cite anyone for domestic violence, though there appeared to be only sufficient evidence to charge Petito.

The investigative report, released in January, recommended new policies for the department, including additional domestic violence training and legal training for officers.

The city at the time did not address any potential discipline for the two officers but said it "intends to implement the report's recommendations" on new policies for the police department, including additional domestic violence training and legal training for officers.

CNN contributed to this report.

ALSO READ | Gabby Petito foundation donates $100K to National Domestic Violence Hotline to help other survivors

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