Man Died By Driving Off Collapsed Bridge Following Google Maps: Lawsuit

By Bill Galluccio

September 21, 2023

Using Google Map navigation on Android phone
Photo: Vedad Ceric / iStock Editorial / Getty Images

A North Carolina family has filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming the company's Maps app caused Philip Paxson's death. The lawsuit says that Paxson was using the Maps app while driving home from his daughter's birthday party in September 2022.

The app led Paxson to an unmarked and unbarricaded bridge, which had collapsed in 2013. Paxson did not know the bridge had collapsed and started to drive over it. He quickly plunged 20 feet into the water below.

He was unable to free himself from his vehicle and drowned.

The lawsuit notes that people who live near the bridge have been asking Google to fix the app so motorists aren't directed to drive over the bridge.

"You are not able to cross this road. GPS sends people down here, which is especially dangerous for emergency vehicles," one woman wrote in a report sent to Google about the issue. "Please update this map so GPS is accurate."

Residents have also asked local government officials to set barricades so people don't drive over the bridge.

"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," 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 lawsuit also names Google's parent company, Alphabet, and two local companies responsible for maintaining the bridge and surrounding land.

"We have the deepest sympathies for the Paxson family," Google spokesman José Castañeda told The Washington Post. "Our goal is to provide accurate routing information in Maps, and we are reviewing this lawsuit."

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