Family of Man Who Died After GPS Directed Him Off Bridge That Collapsed in 2013 Sues Google

The family of a man who died last year after GPS instructions sent him into the water is suing Google and the owners of a collapsed bridge for their alleged roles in the incident.

Philip Paxson, 47, was using his GPS to navigate his way back home on Sept. 30, 2022, when he drove onto an “unmarked, unbarricaded” bridge and into a creek in Hickory, North Carolina, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Wake County Superior Court.

The father of two “was driving home from his daughter’s ninth birthday party” after helping clean up after the party, per the suit. It was a “dark and rainy night,” and Paxson “was generally unfamiliar” with where he was driving.

Paxson “tragically drowned” after his car went over the Snow Creek Bridge, which allegedly had not been repaired following its collapse in 2013, the lawsuit added.

Multiple individuals previously contacted Google Maps about the collapse in order to have the route information updated, according to the lawsuit.

A woman on Sept. 20, 2022, attempted to “suggest an edit” to the map, but Google “took no action,” per the suit.

As of April 6, 2023, the bridge was still labeled as passable on Google Maps, even though Google “had been placed on notice yet again” surrounding the hazards, according to the suit.

google gps death suit
This image featured in a lawsuit showed Phil Paxson’s car after it flipped off the Snow Creek Bridge in September 2022.WADE COUNTY CLERK OF SUPERIOR COURT

Google is accused of “failing to take reasonable measures” to ensure its maps were both accurate and reliable, as well as failing to respond to the reports in a timely manner and “disregarding feedback” about the bridge’s dangers.

Paxson was like many other motorists and “put his trust in Google Maps to safely guide him home on” the day of the crash, according to a statement from Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky, the law firm representing Phil’s family.

“His trust in Google Maps, and the failure of the road and bridge-keepers to do their jobs, cost him his life,” Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky managing partner Larry Bendesky said in the statement.

In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, Google spokesperson José Castañeda said: “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,” Castañeda added.

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Hickory businessman James Tarlton and the companies Tarde LLC and Hinckley Gauvain LLC have been listed in the lawsuit as owners of the bridge and the nearby land, according to The Hickory Daily Record.

The lawsuit said that the companies and Tarlton “refused to place reasonable and proper barricades in front of the hazard to alert drivers to the deadly drop” in addition to their refusal “to properly maintain the bridge” itself.

Tarlton and the companies did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

google gps death suit
This photo of the Snow Creek Bridge was taken after Phil Paxson drove into a river in Hickory, North Carolina in September 2022. The image was included in a lawsuit.WADE COUNTY CLERK OF SUPERIOR COURT

Paxson, a U.S. Navy veteran, as described in the suit, left behind two daughters, ages 7 and 9, and his wife, Alicia Paxson.

Per the New York Post, Alicia said the situation “still doesn’t seem real.”

“Our girls ask how and why their daddy died, and I’m at a loss for words they can understand,” she explained, “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.”

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