The Petito family claims in their lawsuit that Brian Laundries’ parents knew but refused to divulge that their son had murdered Gabby Petito.
A Florida circuit court will the parents of deceased social media personality Gabby Petito to continue a lawsuit against the family of her fiancé and suspected killer, Brian Laundrie.
According to CNN, Circuit Court Judge Hunter Carroll dismissed a motion filed by Laundrie’s parents to dismiss the lawsuit outright.
In their complaint, the Petito family alleges that Christopher and Roberta Laundrie should be held liable for the intentional infliction of emotional distressing, claiming that the Laundries knew that their son had murdered Gabby Petito but nonetheless refused to cooperate with law enforcement.
Gabby Petito, adds CNN, was found dead in Wyoming while embarked on a cross-country trip with her fiancé.
A coroner ruled that Petito had died from strangulation.
While Laundrie stopped at his parents’ Florida home after Petito’s death, he left after two weeks and then “seemingly vanished,” sparking a weeks-long search for him in a Florida nature preserve.
The police as well as Petito’s parents sought assistance from the Laundrie family.
However, the Laundries referred both the media and investigators to their attorneys.
Laundrie was later found dead inside the same nature preserve; a coroner ruled that he had committed suicide.
Nearby, law enforcement discovered a journal in which Laundrie admitted and claimed responsibility for Petito’s death, claiming that she had been injured in an accident and that he killed her as an “act of mercy.”
In his Thursday decision, Judge Carroll found that most of the complaints lodged by Petito’s parents “[involve] the Laundries failing to act,” such as not telling the family where Gabby was or whether she was still alive.
Carroll added that, if the lawsuit only concerned the Laundries’ silence, he would have ruled on their behalf.
However, the family was not silent, and released several media statements in which they suggested that Petito could still be alive.
“On behalf of the Laundrie family it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family,” the Laundries said in a September 2021 statement, released by their attorneys.
“For the purposes of the motion to dismiss, the Court must assume the Laundries are responsible for authoring the September 14, 2021, statement issued by their attorney,” Carroll wrote.
“The Laundries contend that their statement is not outrageous as a matter of law,” Carroll added. “At oral argument they suggested it merely was a plain statement. Plaintiffs, in contrast, countered during oral argument the statement knowingly was false, designed to create false hope, and issued by the Laundries who knew Gabby was dead and where her body was located.”
Carroll also addressed the Petitos’ claim that the Laundries not only knew that Gabby’s parents were “frantically looking for her,” but knew—before Gabby’s remains had been recovered, and before Brian Laundrie committed suicide—that Gabby Petito had been murdered.
“If this is true, then the Laundries’ statement was particularly callous and cruel, and it is sufficiently outrageous to state claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Carroll wrote.
“Because the Laundries’ statement by their attorney in the context of the unique facts of this case is objectively outrageous, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have stated causes of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Laundries. The Court denies the Laundries’ motion to dismiss,” the judge wrote.
The Laundrie family’s attorneys noted that the September 14 statement alone does not suggest “outrage,” but that the Petitos’ claims met the basic legal threshold 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 statement said.