(PatriotWise.com)- The family of Gabby Petito appeared in court last Wednesday for the first hearing in their lawsuit against the parents of Petito’s murderer, Brian Laundrie. Laundrie’s parents did not attend as they were not required to do so.
Sarasota County Circuit Court Judge Hunter W. Carroll heard arguments in the motion to dismiss the suit brought by the Laundries’ attorneys.
The Petito family sued Christopher and Roberta Laundrie alleging that they were aware that their son killed Gabby and had attempted to help him evade justice. They are suing for over $30,000 in damages claiming they suffered mental anguish due to the Laundries’ deceit.
Gabby Petito’s mother and stepfather, Nichole and Jim Schmidt, along with her father and stepmother, Joseph and Tara Petito, appeared in court on Wednesday. The Laundries, who were not legally required to attend, skipped the hearing.
Steve Bertolino, the attorney the Laundries hired in August last year, along with co-counsel Matthew Luka, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. During Wednesday’s hearing, Luka argued that there was “no legal footing” for the cause of action against the Laundries.
Luka told the judge that, contrary to the plaintiffs’ claim that the Laundries had an obligation to speak, under the law, “people are free not to speak.” Bertolino noted that Americans have a Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and cannot be liable to a third party for exercising that right.
Patrick Reilly, the Petito family’s lawyer, argued that the case wasn’t just about the Laundries’ silence but about their conduct from when they learned that their son murdered Gabby Petito until the time her body was found. He said they could have placed an anonymous call informing authorities of where Petito’s body was located. Reilly added that even knowing Petito was dead, where her body was, and that their son had killed her, “they went on vacation.”
Judge Carroll said he would release his written decision on the motion within the next two weeks.