NORTH PORT, Fla. (CW44 News At 10 | CNN) — A Florida Circuit Court judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito’s parents against Brian Laundrie’s parents can proceed.
Circuit Court Judge Hunter Carroll denied a motion by Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, Brian Laundrie’s parents, to dismiss the intentional infliction of emotional distress lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt.
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Gabby, whose disappearance last summer gripped the nation, was found dead in Wyoming after embarking on a cross-country trip with Brian, who was her fiancé. A coroner ruled she died of strangulation. After returning to their home in Florida alone and then leaving again, Brian was found dead weeks later. A medical examiner ruled that he had committed suicide.
In Thursday’s order, Carroll wrote that most of the complaints from Petito’s parents “involve the laundries not taking action,” such as not telling parents where Gabby was or that she was dead.
Carroll wrote that if the case was about the laundries’ silence and they had done so, he would have ruled for the laundries – but they did not shut up.
They released a statement through their lawyer on September 14, 2021, stating: “On behalf of the Laundrie family, we hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family.”
“For the purposes of the motion to dismiss, the Court must assume that the laundries are responsible for drafting the September 14, 2021 statement issued by their attorney,” Carroll said.
“The Laundries argue that their statement is not outrageous in law,” the judge’s statement continued. “During oral argument, they suggested that it was simply a clear statement. Plaintiffs, on the other hand, countered during oral argument that the statement was knowingly false, designed to create false hopes and issued by the laundries who knew Gabby was dead and where her body was.
The judge wrote that the statement alone was not outrageous, but that this threshold was exceeded “when juxtaposed with the other conduct in the case.”
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Petito’s parents claim the Laundries made the statement knowing Gabby was no longer alive, knowing the whereabouts of her body, and knowing her parents were “frenziedly looking for her,” according to their amended complaint.
“If true, then the Laundries’ statement was uniquely insensitive and cruel, and it is sufficiently outrageous to set forth allegations of intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Carroll wrote in the order.
“Because the statement of the Laundries by their attorney in the context of the unique facts of this case is objectively outrageous, the Court finds that the Plaintiffs have declared causes of action to intentionally inflict emotional distress on the Laundries. The Court denies the Laundries motion to dismiss,” the judge wrote.
Patrick Reilly, attorney for Petito’s parents, sent a statement to CNN saying that Gabby’s parents “appreciate Judge Hunter W Carroll’s thorough and well-reasoned decision.”
“Joe and Nichole are eager to find out what information the laundries knew about Gabby’s death and whereabouts, and in particular to get a copy of any correspondence, emails and text messages exchanged during the difficult time the laundries and Gabby’s whereabouts were unknown,” Reilly said.
“They are eager to go to trial and are confident that ultimately the laundries will be held accountable. At this time, Joe and Nichole do not wish to discuss this matter publicly and ask that you respect their privacy,” the statement read.
CNN has reached out to the laundries’ attorney for comment.
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