Gabby Petito’s death was caused by negligence on the part of the Moab City Police Department. Her parents believed it, as her attorneys announced Monday that they would file a $50 million wrongful-death lawsuit against the Moab Police Department, the officers who interacted briefly with her before her death, and two former heads of the department.
The family claims that Moab officers Eric Pratt, and Daniel Robbins failed adequately to respond to a 911 Call made on Aug. 12, 2021 by a witness who said he saw Brian Laundrie hit Petito and then trying to steal her phone to drive off without her.
The officers responding to the call in Utah captured Petito’s body camera footage and classified it as disorderly behavior. The couple was separated for the night but they never filed any charges.
“The officers failed to recognize the serious danger that she was in, and failed to investigate fully and properly,” the family’s attorney, James McConkie, told reporters. “They did not have the training that they needed to recognize the clear signs that were evident that morning, that Gabby was a victim and that she was in serious need of immediate help.”
Moab’s spokesperson The Los Angeles Times They refused to comment on the lawsuit because the city doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Laundrie later murdered Petito that month. Her remains were found in September 2021 at Bridger–Teton National Forest in Wyoming. Laundrie was found to have taken his own life after authorities on Sept. 23, 2021 issued an arrest warrant for him for his unauthorized use of Petito’s debit card. In January, the FBI revealed that Laundrie confessed to killing Petito using a notebook found next to his Florida remains. They were both originally from Long Island, New York.
Petito’s mother and father said they are bringing the lawsuit to honor their daughter’s legacy by working to save the lives of domestic violence victims. They also wanted to see changes made to the handling of cases like that of their daughter’s.
Though police officers typically have immunity from lawsuits in many states, including Utah, attorneys for Petito’s family said they plan to argue that applying Utah’s governmental immunity law to wrongful death claims is unconstitutional and serves as a roadblock to accountability.
“The only effective way to correct these problems is to hold our institutions accountable for failures, including law enforcement,”Brian Stewart, Petito family lawyer said.