Gabby Petito’s parents ‘happy’ as Laundrie family lawyer Steven Bertolino made defendant in lawsuit
SARASOTA COUNTY, FLORIDA: Gabby Petito's parents are delighted following the addition of former Laundrie family attorney Steven Bertolino as a defendant in an ongoing civil lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's parents, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie. The motion was granted by Judge Danielle Brewer during a hearing in Florida on Thursday, January 19. Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt have sued the Laundries, alleging that Christopher and Roberta knew their son had killed Gabby but withheld that information despite several pleas.
After the motion to include Bertolino in the lawsuit was granted, Petito's mother Schmidt broke her silence. “Gabby was there with us," she told local NBC affiliate WFLA. "I could feel her.” Apparently, the Laundrie family's attorney Bertolino issued a statement just five days before Petito's body was found in Grand Teton National Park that gave them false hope that their daughter was still alive and will reunite with her parents. “It is believed that when on September 14, 2021, the statement was issued, the Laundries and Steven Bertolino knew that Gabby Petito was deceased and that under those circumstances, the statement was insensitive, cold-hearted, and outrageous,” Pat Reilly, the attorney for Joe and Schmidt, told WFLA.
Reilly added that Gabby's parents "are happy," with the judge's decision to move forward with their lawsuit in the trial. “They’ve been through a lot. They’ve had to listen to a lot of statements made by Bertolino on behalf of the family, statements that were sometimes hurtful to them. And so, they believe by bringing Bertolino in, they ultimately will get justice for what has occurred.”
In response to the approval of the motion, Bertolino told WFLA: "The decision was not unexpected. This incident, like all others, will work out in the end. One way or the other. Once I am [served] I will engage counsel and proceed accordingly.” Attorney Matt Luka told the news outlet that Bertolino is likely to file a motion to dismiss the suit. “We’re hopeful that the judge grants Bertolino’s motion to dismiss if he does file one, and that this won’t be an issue once we get to trial,” he said.
Gabby Petito's family has already been awarded $3 million in wrongful death lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's estate. However, Laundrie's parents are still in legal trouble as Petito’s family claims the pair refused to release crucial information that would have implicated their son. The civil lawsuit against the Laundries is set to go to a jury trial in August.
"This gives them an opportunity to proceed with their claim for the emotional distress caused by the conduct of the Laundries," the attorney said in a statement, according to RadarOnline. "Joe and Nichole look forward to discovering the information the Laundries knew about Gabby’s death and her whereabouts, and in particular getting a copy of any correspondence, emails and texts exchanged during the difficult period when Gabby’s whereabouts were unknown," he said, and concluded by saying, "They look forward to going to trial and are confident that ultimately the Laundries will be held accountable."