NORTH PORT, Fla. - Last month, Gabby Petito's parents filed a motion to add the Laundrie family's former attorney as a co-defendant in their lawsuit against Brian Laundrie's parents. Now Chris and Roberta Laundrie's new attorney is asking the judge to deny the motion to add Steven Bertolino, arguing it would create a conflict of interest.
The Petito family filed the lawsuit in March, alleging that Brian Laundrie's parents were aware that their son killed their daughter and attempted to help him flee the country. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for causing the Petitos pain and suffering along with mental anguish.
In court filings, they say the Laundries knew the location of Gabby's remains and withheld the information despite a nationwide, multi-agency search to find her.
In early December, they filed a motion to add Steven Bertolino, who represented the Laundrie family at the time, claiming he also knew Gabby was dead and the location of her remains.
On Tuesday afternoon, the lawyer now representing the Laundries – Matthew Luka – responded in court, saying that Bertolino knew more about the Petito case than Chris and Roberta Laundrie did, because he represented Brian.
"Even after Brian Laundrie's death, Mr. Bertolino still owes a duty of confidentiality to Brian Laundrie," Luka wrote.
He further argued that Bertolino should not be a co-defendant in the lawsuit because it invades attorney-client privilege.
"Pitting the Laundries and Mr. Bertolino as co-defendants undoubtedly creates a conflict because both have interest in defending themselves to the potential detriment of the other," the motion reads in part. "The Laundries should be able to defend this case without worrying whether their attorney will take an antagonistic position against them."
"The Plaintiffs must choose to either proceed against the Laundries or Mr. Bertolino because they cannot both be liable," the court document went on to say.
Luka noted in the filing that Bertolino still does represent the Laundries in other matters, but not in the Petito case.
In court filings, Petito's family says the Laundries knew the location of Gabby's remains and withheld the information despite a nationwide, multi-agency search to find her. The Petito family now says they intend to prove that the Laundrie family lawyer was contacted on August 29, 2021, and was paid a retainer five days later, on Sept. 2.
The Petito family said that instead of Bertolino helping with the search for Gabby, he issued statements to the media, on behalf of the Laundrie family.
On September 14, Bertolino issued a statement saying, "It is our understanding that a search has been organized for Miss Petito in or near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. On behalf of the Laundrie family it is our hope that the search for Miss Petito is successful and that Miss Petito is reunited with her family."
"For the Laundries and Steven Bertolino 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 Brian Laundrie was beyond outrageous," the Petito family's new court filing states.
The civil jury trial is scheduled in Sarasota County court in August 2023.