VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida judge has denied the motion filed by Brian Laundrie’s parents to limit the scope of their depositions in the lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito’s parents that is headed to a jury trial next year.
Judge Hunter W. Carroll ruled that the motion, which sought to restrict the depositions to the weeks after Petito was killed and prevent further embarrassment for the Laundries, was “overly narrow” and would preclude directly relevant evidence based on the allegations in the lawsuit that the Laundries were aware of Petito’s murder and did nothing.
“The court notes that there really has been no showing of any prior misconduct by the plaintiffs,” Judge Carroll said during Tuesday’s hearing on the motion. “We normally would not issue such an order without either some showing of something going on other than that the fact that there’s a lot of media scrutiny.”
The motion, filed in October, sought to limit the depositions to the events that occurred between Aug. 27, 2021— the day Petito is believed to have been killed—and Sept. 19, 2021, the day her remains were discovered.
Pat Reilly, the attorney for Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt, says the depositions have been scheduled for December 1, however, he will be seeking postponement to await results from his FOIA request on evidence and testimony gathered by the FBI during their investigation into Petito’s disappearance.
“Obviously we’re disappointed that [Judge Carroll] didn’t rule in our favor, but we have a great judge, and he gives a lot of consideration to our arguments, so I appreciate the thought he gave to our case,” said Laundrie attorney Matthew Luka. “The depositions will go forward. And I know that Mr. Reilly and I will work together to make sure that the questions that are asked are reasonable and fair.”
For Nichole Schmidt and Joe Petito, this is their second pre-trial victory in Sarasota County Circuit Court. In June, Judge Carroll heard arguments on the Laundrie’s motion to deny the lawsuit from proceeding to a jury trial, but ruled against it.
“I appreciate what attorney Luka filed, and why he filed it. He’s just doing what his clients want him to do,” said Reilly. “But in my opinion and my clients’ opinion, this is just another example of the Laundries wanting to keep information from getting out to show what they’re part was in all of this, so we’re really pleased with the court’s decision today and believe it was the right decision.”
According to the motion, the Laundries had sought to avoid having to disclose “irrelevant matters” in order to protect them from “annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, undue burden and expense.”
“This has been a truly heartbreaking experience for both families,” the motion read. “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.”
Court records show the jury trial is scheduled for August 2023. Ahead of that will be the depositions, which Schmidt and Petito confirm to WFLA.com they will attend. It will mark the first time Gabby Petito’s parents and Brian Laundrie’s parents will meet face-to-face since the couple died last year.
Brian Laundrie and Gabby Petito were traveling together on a cross-country van trip in July 2021 before Laundrie returned home to North Port, Florida without his fiancée, spurring an intense, nationwide search for Petito.
During the search, the Laundries released a statement through their attorney, saying it was their ”hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family.” Petito and Schmidt claim the Laundries released this statement knowing Gabby was dead and the location of her body.
Petito’s remains were found in September in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. After an exhaustive manhunt led by the FBI, Laundrie’s remains were found in the Carlton Reserve in North Port. His death was later ruled a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Earlier this year, attorneys released an eight-page notebook confession left behind by Brian that provided his explanation for claiming Petito’s life.