Google Hit With Negligence Lawsuit Over Death of Man Who Drove Off Fallen Bridge Following Google Maps

The family of Philip Paxson claims Google Maps was informed about the fallen bridge years before the 2022 fatal crash.

Nasir Kachroo

A North Carolina woman is suing Google over the drowning death of her husband.

According to the lawsuit obtained by CNN, the tragedy occurred on the night of Sept. 30, 2022, when Philip Paxson was driving home late from his daughter’s ninth birthday party. His widow, Alicia Paxson, claims Philip was using Google Maps during his travels, and was led to a fallen bridge in Hickory, North Carolina.

The 47-year-old ultimately drove off the edge and fell about 20 feet into Snow Creek. His body and Jeep Gladiator were found the next morning submerged in the body of water, which allegedly lacked guardrails and warning signs.

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Local officials confirmed the bridge partially collapsed in 2013 and hasn't been repaired by its private owners. Residents told CNN they repeatedly expressed concerns over the bridge and Google Maps’ misdirections. Some claimed they've called on Google and local authorities to take action, only to have their pleas ignored.

“For years before this tragedy, Hickory residents asked for the road to be fixed or properly barricaded before someone was hurt or killed. Their demands went unanswered,” Paxson family attorney Robert Zimmerman said in a statement. “We’ve discovered that Google Maps misdirected motorists like Mr. Paxson onto this collapsed road for years, despite receiving complaints from the public demanding that Google fix its map and directions to mark the road as CLOSED.”

The suit lists Google and its parent company Alphabet as defendants, along with North Carolina businessman James Tarlton, Tarde LLC, and Hinckley Gauvain LLC. Tartlon and the companies were identified as the owners of the Snow Creek bridge and the surrounding land.

“I just struggle every day to understand how something so unimaginable and horrific could be allowed to happen,” Alicia told NBC affiliate WCNC. “It’s really impossible to comprehend how those responsible for the Google Maps GPS misdirection, and neglected on barricaded, collapsed bridge could have just such disregard and negligence for human life.”

A representative for Google said the company has “the deepest sympathies for the Paxson family” and is now reviewing the lawsuit.

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