A San Diego judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by the family whose round-the-world sailing expedition ended with a military rescue in April when their 1-year-old became sick.
Eric and Charlotte Kaufman filed the lawsuit in July, blaming their broken Whenever Communications satellite phone for the loss of their boat, the Rebel Heart, after they were rescued hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast.
Their attorney Dan Gilleon said the suit claims if the Kaufmans had not lost service, they would have gotten medical advice over the phone instead of calling in the Coast Guard.
The judge ruled Wednesday that the Kaufman’s phone contract stated any lawsuits against the company must be filed in Florida, where Whenever Communications is centered. The case was then dismissed.
Gilleon says the family plans to refile in Florida court.
The phone company’s attorney Matthew Herron told NBC 7 this case should never should have come to San Diego in the first place and he is pleased the judge sided with him. He said Whenever Communications was in the process of switching SIM card providers, so another company was responsible for shutting off the Kaufman’s phone service.
Eric, Charlotte and their daughters, a 3-year-old and a 1-year old, were two weeks into their sailing adventure when the 36-foot boat lost its steering and communication abilities. At the same time, the youngest, Lyra, became seriously ill with diarrhea, a rash and vomiting.
Desperate for help, her parents messaged the Coast Guard, which launched a rescue effort with the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing. The Navy’s USS Vandegrift picked up the family after pararescuemen jumped from a helicopter into the ocean to board the Rebel Heart and stabilize Lyra.
The sailboat was sunk for safety reasons, rescuers said, and the Kaufmans were taken back to San Diego.
The ill-fated trip attracted national attention and widespread debate about the families taking young children on open ocean journeys.