VENICE, Fla. - The Florida judge overseeing a civil lawsuit filed by the parents of slain travel blogger Gabby Petito against the parents of her suspected killer and ex-boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, invoked another high-profile case Wednesday during a hearing on whether the case will proceed to trial.Twelfth Circuit Judge Hunter Carroll grilled both sides over whether an early statement made by Steve Bertolino, the Laundries’ longtime lawyer, amounted to speech on their behalf. The lawsuit alleges that the Laundries knew Gabby Petito was already dead and misled her parents and stepparents.Carroll noted that Johnny Depp had just been found liable for defaming his ex-wife Amber Heard due to a comment his lawyer made.GABBY PETITO'S PARENTS, BRIAN LAUNDRIE'S LAWYERS APPEAR IN FLORIDA COURT FOR HEARING ON FATE OF CIVIL LAWSUIT"The Laundries are civilly liable for Bertolino’s statements that they authorized and Bertolino made on their behalf," said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor who is now a Los Angeles-based trial attorney.
"This is a basic tenet of principal-agent relationships under the law."Just like Depp was liable for the remark from his attorney.Judge Carroll also asked the attorneys if a crime needed to be present in order for someone to invoke Fifth Amendment, which addresses a person's constitutional right to remain silent. He wanted to know how the parents could be considered not speaking if someone was speaking on their behalf.The plaintiffs’ attorneys in the civil case can use the Laundries’ silence against them in a way prosecutors cannot in criminal court, Rahmani explained.
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