VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — A lawyer for Brian Laundrie’s parents has filed a defense against the motion to add their longtime family attorney Steven Bertolino as a co-defendant to the lawsuit filed against them by Gabby Petito’s parents.
In the response filed by attorney Matthew Luka in Sarasota County court, the Laundries claim Bertolino, who represented both Brian Laundrie and his parents, knows more about the Gabby Petito case than his clients, Chris and Roberta Laundrie. They argue, in part, that Bertolino should not be a co-defendant in the lawsuit because it invades attorney-client privilege and would pit him against his clients.
“Pitting the Laundries and Mr. Bertolino as co-defendents undoubtedly creates a conflict because both have interest in defending themselves to the potential detriment of the other,” the response reads. “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.”
In a statement to WFLA.com, Bertolino highlighted the importance of attorney-client privilege.
“One should expect that attorneys are confided in,” said Bertolino. “That’s why our system affords clients privileged communications and lawyers certain immunities.”
Exactly how much Chris and Roberta Laundrie knew in the aftermath of their son’s murder of Petito is at the center of the lawsuit filed by Petito’s parents, Joe Petito and Nichole Schmidt. The lawsuit alleges the Laundries are responsible for intentional infliction of emotional distress against Petito and Schmidt for allegedly knowing of their daughter’s murder and doing nothing other than have Bertolino release a statement expressing hope that Petito would be found.
For the first time, the Laundries, in the response filed Tuesday, claim they don’t have as much information on the entire situation as Bertolino, who acted as Brian’s attorney before he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last year.
“Mr. Bertolino’s knowledge is certainly far more than the Laundrie parents,” the response reads. “Yet, he cannot disclose what he knows or the reasons why he took certain actions because, even after Brian Laundrie’s death, Mr. Bertolino still owes a duty of confidentiality to Brian Laundrie.”
Earlier this year, Judge Hunter W. Carroll ruled against the Laundries’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Carroll also denied a motion to limit the scope of the Laundrie’s depositions, which are now scheduled for January.
The motion on whether to add Bertolino as a co-defendant to Petito and Schmidt’s lawsuit against the Laundries will be heard by Judge Carroll on January 24.