Family members of one of four men killed during the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race two years ago have filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against the boat's GPS manufacturer and distributor.
Loren Mavromati, the widow of Theo Mavromatis (their last names are spelled slightly differently), and their three children filed the lawsuit March 26 against Spot LLC, the Colorado-based company that manufactured the boat's safety alert system, Globalstar, Travel Safety Group and Amazon.com, which sold the product.
The lawsuit alleges that the companies are responsible for the late skipper's death.
"What happened to this guy is tragic," said Walter Lack, a Los Angeles-based attorney for the Mavromati family. "The product is designed solely to save your life, and the company utterly failed to do any of the things they promised when the family signed up for the service."
Mavromatis, 49, of Redondo Beach, along with his three crew members and friends, died while heading to Ensenada, Mexico, aboard the 37-foot sailboat Aegean in April 2012, when it crashed into North Coronado Island, just south of the U.S.-Mexican border.
William Reed Johnson, 57, of Torrance, Kevin Rudolph, 53, of Manhattan Beach, and Mavromatis' brother-in-law, Joseph Lester Steward, 64, of Bradenton, Fla., also died.
Early reports suggested the boat may have been struck by a liner traveling in a nearby shipping lane, but an official report from U.S. Sailing, the sport's governing body, determined that the Aegean ran aground, according to a report at the time. The conclusion was based largely on information relayed from the GPS device aboard the boat that showed its trajectory into the island.
Though the GPS device was functioning properly, Spot LLC is liable for damages because no one monitoring S.O.S signals alerted authorities, leading to the deaths, the complaint alleges.
Court documents state that about 1:30 a.m. April 28, 2012, the Aegean somehow became disabled. When the S.O.S emergency function on the Spot Satellite GPS Messenger was activated, emergency responders were never notified, the complaint alleges.
"They got the signal, the device worked, it was just human error on their end," Lack said. "There was a Coast Guard boat nearby that could have been there within 20 minutes."
Spot LLC wrote in a statement that it continues to stand by its products and the service the company provides.
"Our thoughts have always been with the families involved in this tragic incident, which occurred almost two years ago," the company wrote.
Amazon is also being sued because it sold the product to the family, Lack said.
The online retailer did not respond to requests for comment.
The U.S. Coast Guard recovered the men's bodies days after the boat was spotted in pieces off the rocky tip of North Coronado Island.
The lawsuit, which alleges negligence, wrongful death and breach of warranty, seeks unspecified damages for loss of earnings, funeral expenses and loss of the family's husband and father, in addition to any other damages the jury finds.