VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — The parents of Brian Laundrie argue their choice to remain silent during the disappearance of Gabby Petito “is what most people would and should do” as the legal battle between the Laundries and Petito’s parents continues.
Attorneys for Chris and Roberta Laundrie filed an updated 21-page motion for dismissal on Friday after Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, sued them for “intentional infliction of emotional distress” earlier this year. Petito and Schmidt claim the Laundries were aware that Brian had murdered Gabby and sought to help him flee the country, while taking steps to block communication with the Petito family.
The civil lawsuit, which didn’t contain any evidence to support the allegations when it was filed in March, was amended after Judge Hunter W. Carroll noted a “perceived procedural deficiency” in the complaint, leading to a longer and more argumentative motion for dismissal by the Laundries.
“The Laundries’ decision to exercise their constructional rights to silence, privacy, and counsel, and to have their attorney speak for them under such trying circumstances and media pressure, could not be further from conduct that is extreme or goes beyond all bounds of decency,” the Laundries’ motion to dismiss states. “It is what most people would and should do in such a situation.”
The motion to dismiss also states “there are no more facts that could emerge that would bolster the plaintiff’s claim.”
Pat Reilly, an attorney for Petito and Schmidt, continues to express confidence in the case but refuses to reveal any evidence his clients have to support their accusations at this stage in the legal process.
“I think most people would recognize that if a parent is suffering because their child is missing, and I can help them and tell them where their child is, I have a moral and ethical duty to do that,” Reilly said in a phone call with WFLA.com on Friday.
He added that the argument for the lawsuit’s dismissal is “outrageous and ridiculous.”
Matthew Luka, the Florida attorney representing the Laundries, argued the Laundries’ decisions to solely communicate through their attorney and not respond to Petito and Schmidt while Gabby was missing were “legally permissible, constitutionally protected, not outrageous, and do not give rise to any cause of action.”
Attorney Steven Bertolino, who continues to represent the Laundries with regards to the media, believes the suit will ultimately be thrown out.
“The amended complaint did not have any new facts or cite any law that would support the Petito’s legally baseless claim. We are confident our current motion to dismiss the amended complaint will be granted,” Bertolino told WFLA.com.
The decision on whether to dismiss Petito and Schmidt’s lawsuit, which seeks damages of $30,000 or more, falls on Judge Carroll. Reilly says his team is hopeful for a ruling on the motion to dismiss by “mid-to-late summer.”
Barring dismissal, a trial by jury has been set for the week of Aug. 14, 2023 at the South County Courthouse in Sarasota County, Florida. The trial, which would be expected to garner international media attention, would mark the first time the Petito case reaches a courtroom and reveal the highly-anticipated evidence Petito and Schmidt claim to have to support their accusations.
Nichole Schmidt, Petito’s mother, has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Laundrie’s estate, accusing him of performing “intentional acts” that led to Petito’s death.