A man who lost his life when his vehicle plunged off a ruined bridge was following instructions on Google Maps, according to a lawsuit filed by his family.
Philip Paxson drowned on September 30 of the previous year while returning home from his daughter’s birthday party. The family accuses the tech giant of negligence, maintaining that even though Google was informed about the status of the bridge, it did not update its navigation system.
Paxson, a medical device salesman and father of two, drove his Jeep Gladiator to Snow Creek in Hickory, North Carolina. According to the lawsuit filed in Wake County Superior Court, while driving in an unknown area, Google Maps guided him across a bridge that had collapsed nine years earlier and had never been repaired.
“Our daughters constantly ask me how and why their father died. I don’t know how to explain to you because, even as an adult, I can’t understand how those in charge of the GPS and the bridge showed so little concern for human life,” said his wife, Alicia Paxson.
Officers who found Paxson, with his vehicle overturned and partially submerged, indicated that there were no barriers or warning signs on the damaged road.
According to the lawsuit, Paxson veered off an unprotected lane, falling about 20 feet below.
The North Carolina State Patrol reported that the bridge was not under the care of local or state officials, and that the original construction company had ceased operations. The lawsuit points to several private property management companies as being responsible for the bridge and adjacent land.
The lawsuit notes that, in the years leading up to Paxson’s accident, several people had notified Google Maps about the bridge collapse and urged the company to update trip information. In fact, email records are included from a local resident who, in September 2020, alerted the company about the wrong direction to the collapsed bridge. Google confirmed in November 2020 that it had received said report and was reviewing it, but the lawsuit alleges that no action was taken on the matter.
A representative of Google, based in California but with a registered office in Raleigh, said: “We have the Paxson family in our thoughts. At Google Maps, our goal is to provide accurate route information and we are currently evaluating this demand.”
Paxson’s mother-in-law shared on Facebook that the night of the tragic event it was dark and raining. “Philip will be deeply missed by his family and friends. It was an accident that could have been avoided. We are deeply sorry for his loss,” she wrote.
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