Alright, Class: Raise your hands if you would entrust your life and the lives of your crew to a SPOT tracker.
Those of you with your hands up: Grab a pair of scissors and give yourself a vasectomy.
There is good news for you, though – the widow of Aegean skipper Theo Mavromatis (or more likely, blood-sucking lawyers at her husband’s insurance company) is fighting for your right to be stupid, too.
You’ll likely remember the Hunter 37 Aegean as the cruising boat that allegedly crashed into one of the Coronado Islands off of San Diego during a ‘fun race’ down the coast. Long-running investigations determined the problem to be one of, let’s say, software – the crew likely failed to zoom in far enough on a chart plotter to see the islands, and compounded their navigational error by not keeping a lookout as they motored through the night on autopilot. All hands perished after the wreck, and multiple lawsuits have been filed against Mavromatis’ estate by families and insurance companies representing his crew – just as you’d see in any accident. But now, there’s something new; Ms. Mavromatis and her three children are now plaintiffs against SPOT LLC and Amazon.com, and in a lawsuit filed last week, they contend that it was SPOT’s failure to make sure emergency services got to the Aegean that was at least partially at fault for Mavromatis’ loss.
The family is suing for wrongful death, negligence, and breach of warranty, seeking unspecified damages and burial costs, and probably seeks millions. Assuming (and hoping) that Mavromatis, an aerospace engineer, had decent insurance coverage for his boat and life, this all smells like an insurance company casting a net for deep pockets to help defray the millions they have already paid out in this case, and they may just succeed.
Why? Because, as you can see by the screen grab above and at SPOT’s page here, the company really is advertising “911/SOS Member Rescue Benefit” for just $17.95 per year. And according to the lawsuit and several investigators, the crew of Aegean pressed the SPOT rescue button at some point in the calamity, yet it took a day for anyone to come check on them. Is this some serious bullshit advertising that should absolutely be curtailed or even punished? Absolutely. Is it negligence, and did it contribute more to the death of the Aegean skipper than the fact that he ran into an island? Umm…no. Add to that the fact that SPOT requires you read and sign a dozen paragraphs on why SPOT is not really a rescue device before you sign up, and we don’t think this one passes the smell test.
We’re also pretty sure that Mavromatis, a longtime sailor and telecommunications/electronics consultant for Raytheon, knew the difference between a SPOT and an EPIRB, but then again, we’d be pretty sure a guy like that would know how to work a chart plotter. In the meantime, it’s yet more litigation that will result in increased insurance premiums and more lawsuits down the road.
There’s a thread on Aegean litigation here if you want to stay on top of it.