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Brian Laundrie’s Parents Ask Judge to Protect Them From ‘Annoyance, Embarrassment,’ and ‘Oppression’ in Petito Depositions

A photo shows Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie. (Image via screengrab from YouTube/Nomadic Statik.)

The parents of admitted killer Brian Laundrie have filed a request to limit upcoming deposition testimony in a lawsuit filed by the parents of victim Gabby Petito. The request — technically, a motion for a protective order — says Florida law allows the Laundries to save themselves from being quizzed under oath about “irrelevant matters” and “to protect [against] annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, undue burden and expense.”

Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt sued Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie on March 11, 2022. An amended complaint filed on April 28 accuses the Laundrie parents of causing several torts, including pain and suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience, and loss of capacity for enjoyment of life.

Petito’s parents alleged that Laundrie’s parents “were keeping the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie secret” and “were making arrangements for him to leave the country” while Gabby was missing and while fears for her safety increased.

The protective order filed in connection with the civil case at times appears to speak to the public rather than to the judge who will decide it:

As the Court is aware, this case arises out of the undeniably sad circumstance where Defendants’ son, Brian Laundrie, killed Plaintiffs’ daughter, Gabby Petito. After which, Defendants’ son committed suicide. This has been a truly heartbreaking experience for both families.

The public who followed the case and the Plaintiffs are likely curious about Brian Laundrie’s life, his last days, his interaction with his parents, and the thoughts and feelings experienced by his parents. But curiosity is not a reason to require the Defendants to discuss such personal and heart wrenching details. Rather, the discovery must be relevant to the cause of action at issue.

In the motion, the Laundrie family’s lawyer then reacquainted the judge with the four elements of the most prominent of the claims alleged — intentional infliction of emotional distress — and said the depositions currently scheduled for Thurs., Dec. 1, should focus only on “relevant” issues.

The question, of course, is what precisely is “relevant” — and the Laundrie protective order request suggests a somewhat narrow — but not entirely narrow — field of inquiry.

“[T]he focus of discovery should be limited in scope to the time period of August 27, 2021, through September 19, 2021, the time period between the death of Ms. Petito and when her body was found as alleged in the Amended Complaint, and further limited to information related to the outward actions or comments of the Defendants during that time period,” the motion states.

The dates are important, so let’s walk through them.

A photo shows Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito.

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito. (Image via screengrab from YouTube/Nomadic Statik.)

The civil lawsuit alleges that Brian Laundrie told his parents “on or about August 28, 2021” that he had murdered Gabby Petito.  Aug. 28 is the date the Laundrie parents allegedly spoke with attorney Steve Bertolino; the Laundries sent him a retainer on Sept. 2, 2021, the lawsuit avers.

Petito’s parents also alleged that the Laundries took a vacation knowing full well that Gabby was dead in Wyoming. They further skewered the Laundries for releasing a Sept. 14, 2021 statement through their lawyer that expressed “hope” that a multi-state “search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family.”

The civil lawsuit countered the sentiment expressed in that Sept. 14 2021 statement.

“For the Laundries to express their ‘hope’ that Gabrielle Petito was located and reunited with her family, at a time when they knew she had been murdered by their son was beyond outrageous,” the original civil lawsuit asserted.

A photo shows Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito.

Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito. (Image via screengrab from YouTube/Nomadic Statik.)

The Laundries responded by arguing that the claims must fail as a matter of law because their actions and silence “were legally permissible, constitutionally protected, not outrageous, and do not give rise to any cause of action.” However, judge ruled in June 2022 that the lawsuit alleged enough of a claim to move forward through the courts.

The depositions of the Laundries are part of the ongoing court processes in the matter.

The motion for a protective order says the Laundries will not shy away from discussing the Sept. 14, 2021 statement “which the Court found was the lone allegation of affirmative conduct in support of the cause of action.”

“However, Defendants expect the Plaintiffs to inquire into the history and private experiences of the Laundrie family for purposes other than proving intentional infliction of emotional distress,” the motion continues.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie appear in Aug. 12, 2021 Moab, Utah police body camera videos.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie appear in Aug. 12, 2021 Moab, Utah police body camera videos.

The Laundries expect the Petitos to attempt to go beyond a court order that narrowed the case, but the Laundries say they don’t have to go along with such lines of questioning if, indeed, they occur.

“As the Court has already determined, the Defendants had no duty to disclose any information to the Plaintiffs and, standing alone, Defendants’ actions (or inactions) in that regard do not support Plaintiffs’ cause of action,” the motion continues.  “Therefore, questions about subject matters that did not result in specific acts or conduct alleged in the Amended Complaint are irrelevant to the cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress. As such information would not support Plaintiffs’ claim, the only purposes such questions would serve are to embarrass, annoy, oppress, and burden the Defendants by having them discuss painful details of Brian Laundrie’s history and last days and their personal experiences and grief before and after these tragic events.”

Here’s the core of the Laundrie request as it appears near the conclusion of the motion:

The Defendants respectfully request the Court protect Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie from being deposed about any details of their personal lives that do not relate to the attorney statement alleged in paragraph 25 of the Amended Complaint and that fall outside the time period of August 27, 2021, through September 19, 2021. Such an order would not prevent the Plaintiffs from inquiring as to actions taken by the Defendants and public comments made by them, or on their behalf.

While the motion does recognize that discovery can legally veer into parallel matters that are “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence,” the Laundries reiterated that courts “routinely exercise[] . . . authority to limit depositions where the subject matter is irrelevant.”

A fifteen-minute video call to sort out the protective order request is scheduled for Nov. 22, 2022, at 11:15 a.m.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie appear in a surveillance video screengrab.

Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie are seen entering a Whole Foods grocery store in Wyoming on Aug. 27, 2021. The recordings are believed to be the last of Gabby Petito alive.

According to the authorities, Laundrie, 23, wrote in a notebook that he killed Petito, 22, in Wyoming’s Spread Creek Dispersed Camping Area. The young couple had embarked upon a cross-country van trip and was posting about it on social media. On Sept. 1, 2021, Laundrie returned alone to Florida in the van he and Petito had been using.  Laundrie vanished on Sept. 13, 2021.  His Ford Mustang convertible turned up near the entrance to the Myakkahatchee Environmental Park — which is adjacent to the vast Carlton Reserve in Sarasota County — on Sept. 14, 2021. In the confines of those wildlife refuges, Laundrie penned a confession and took his own life.

Searchers found Petito’s body on Sept. 21, 2021. A coroner determined that Petito’s cause of death was strangulation and that the manner of her death was homicide.

Searchers found human remains on Oct. 20, 2021, in the aforementioned park and refuge area; it was later determined to be Laundrie’s.

The motion for a protective order is available here in its entirety.

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.