VENICE, Fla. — A Sarasota County judge has ruled that another co-defendant may be added to the civil lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito’s parents.
The court accepted the request of the Petito family to request the court to add the lawyer of the Laudrie family, Steven Bertolino, to the complaint.
Last year, the family of Gabby Petito file a civil suit against Chris and Roberta Laundrie.
“Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt believe that Judge Danielle Brewer made the legal decision to allow them to join Attorney Steven Bertolino as a Defendant along with Christopher Laundrie and Roberta Laundrie in the lawsuit filed for the “Intentional infliction of emotional distress. They are responsible for the emotional harm involved. We look forward to taking the case to court,” said Patrick Reilly, an attorney for the Petito family.
The lawsuit contends that Brian Laundrie killed Gabby Petito in August of 2021. Gabby’s body was found outside Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
The lawsuit alleges Brian’s parents knew about the murder but did nothing to help. The lawsuit was based on statements made by the Laundrie family’s attorney, Steven Bertolino.
According to court records, one statement read, “It is our understanding that a search has been conducted for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, on behalf of the Laundrie family, our hope is that the search for Miss Petito is successful and Miss Petito is reunited with her family.”
Jeffrey Swartz, a WMU-Cooley law professor and ABC Action News legal analyst, said it’s unusual to list an attorney on a civil lawsuit.
“What they’re trying to do is prosecute a lawyer who went beyond the bounds of his public representation and made public statements and that’s a very difficult thing to do. What he did said it was a lie,” Swartz said.
“If he comes out and starts pushing this idea, hopefully he’s found alive but he knows he’s dead and then there’s the statement that he did something wrong in his side because he helped cover up a crime and that could be part of their cause of action,” Swartz added.
An attorney for the Laundrie family said in court filings, “Pitting the Laundrie and Mr. Bertolino are adversaries that are bound to cause conflict as both have an interest in defending themselves against each other.” potentially harming another. It attacks the relationship between attorneys and clients, a fundamental building block of our legal system.”
ABC Action News’ Steven Bertolino sent the following statement:
“The decision was not accidental. This crisis, like all others, will pay off in the end.
Bertolino has not indicated whether he will file a motion to dismiss to try to remove his name from the lawsuit.
According to court records, a jury trial is scheduled for August 14, 2023.