Tech giant Google faces a lawsuit from the family of Philip Paxson who claim that the company’s flawed Google Maps directions led to the North Carolina man’s tragic death when he drove off a collapsed bridge.
ABC News reports that Philip Paxson, a medical device salesman and a father of two, died on September 30, 2022, after his vehicle plunged into Snow Creek in Hickory, North Carolina. The incident occurred as Paxson was driving home from his daughter’s ninth birthday party, relying on Google Maps for directions through an unfamiliar neighborhood. The app allegedly directed him to cross a bridge that had collapsed nine years prior and had since remained unrepaired.
The lawsuit, filed in Wake County Superior Court, claims that Google had been informed multiple times about the bridge’s collapse but failed to update its navigation system accordingly. The family of the deceased argues that the technology giant acted with negligence, showing little regard for human life by not addressing the reported issue. “Our girls ask how and why their daddy died, and I’m at a loss for words they can understand because, as an adult, I still can’t understand how those responsible for the GPS directions and the bridge could have acted with so little regard for human life,” lamented Alicia Paxson, Philip’s wife.
The North Carolina State Patrol reported that there were no barriers or warning signs along the washed-out roadway, and Paxson had driven off an unguarded edge, crashing about 20 feet below. The bridge was not maintained by local or state officials, and the original developer’s company had dissolved. The lawsuit also names several private property management companies, alleging that they are responsible for the bridge and the adjoining land.
In the years leading up to Paxson’s death, multiple individuals had notified Google about the collapsed bridge and had urged the company to update its route information. The court filing includes email records from another Hickory resident who had used the map’s “suggest an edit” feature in September 2020 to alert the company that it was directing drivers over the collapsed bridge. Google confirmed receiving the report and was reviewing the suggested change in November 2020, but the lawsuit claims that no further actions were taken by the company.
In response to the tragic incident and the ensuing lawsuit, Google spokesperson José Castañeda expressed, “We have the deepest sympathies for the Paxson family. Our goal is to provide accurate routing information in Maps, and we are reviewing this lawsuit.”