Google Maps led a man to drive off a collapsed bridge and die, alleges a lawsuit in North Carolina.

Philip Paxson drowned in his Jeep on September 30, 2022, when he followed Google Maps’ directions down an unfamiliar road, and drove off a broken bridge into Snow Creek outside Hickory, North Carolina. He was driving home from his daughter’s ninth birthday party, after dark. The bridge, which was on a private road, collapsed over nine years ago, and was never repaired.

According to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Google had been told several time by local residents about the collapsed bridge, but failed to update their routing information. There’s even confirmation from Google in a 2020 email that they were reviewing the change, but it apparently slipped through the cracks.

Adjacent property owners, who are responsible for the bridge, are also named in the lawsuit. The North Carolina State Patrol reported that there were no barriers or warnings signs along the washed-out and crumbling edge of the roadway, which gives way to a twenty-foot drop into Snow Creek.

“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,” his wife, Alicia Paxson, said.

While it’s understandable that the family wishes to find an outside cause for Philip’s unexpected death, it’s very unlikely that Google will be found at any fault. The Google Maps app, and common sense, is very clear that drivers are still responsible for watching their surroundings and driving safely.

“We have the deepest sympathies for the Paxson family,” Google spokesperson José Castañeda told The Associated Press. “Our goal is to provide accurate routing information in Maps and we are reviewing this lawsuit.”

 

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