Gabby Petito's parents to file $50 million wrongful death and negligence lawsuit against police

The family's attorney said Moab officers lacked proper domestic violence response training

Updated: August 9, 2022 - 8:36am

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Attorneys for Gabby Petito's family announced plans to file a $50 million negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against Utah's Moab City Police Department, two former officials and two officers who interacted with her shortly before she died.

The lawsuit notice, filed Friday and published by Fox News this week, accuses the defendants of "negligent failure" to enforce Utah law, to investigate claims made by her fiancé Brian Laundrie and to properly investigate and assess domestic violence situations.

The filing states that Gabby Petito was brutally murdered as a result of the defendants' actions, specifically those of Moab officers Eric Pratt and Daniel Robbins. The two officers responded to a 911 call last August after Laundrie allegedly hit Petito and stole her phone.

The attorneys cited a review of Moab law enforcement's handling of the domestic violence incident which occurred about two weeks before Laundrie is suspected to have bludgeoned and strangled Petito to death.

"Had the officers involved had training to implement proper lethality assessment and to recognize the obvious indicators of abuse, it would have been clear to them that Gabby was a victim of intimate partner violence and needed immediate protection," said Bryan Stewart, a lawyer for Petito's parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, and stepparents, Tara Petito and Jim Schmidt.

"Similarly, as a result of the Defendants' wrongful acts and neglect, Gabby suffered personal injuries resulting in death, pain, emotional distress, mental anguish, impaired earning capacity, lost wages, and other general and special damages," the family's attorneys argue.

The family retained the Parker and McConkie law firm, Fox reported. The Utah-based firm successfully represented the family of 21-year-old University of Utah student Lauren McCluskey in a 2020 lawsuit against the school. McCluskey repeatedly asked for campus police help before she was shot by a 37-year-old man in 2018.

"The purpose of this lawsuit is just one part of the family’s broader effort to raise awareness and education, to protect victims of domestic violence and to help make sure that our governmental institutions are held to account and that they are given the resources and training that they need to do their jobs," family attorney Stewart said at a press conference on Monday.

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