In the aftermath of a fatal bridge accident in North Carolina, a family in mourning has filed a negligence lawsuit against Google, claiming it failed to update its Maps product in a timely manner.
Philip Paxson was discovered dead on September 30, 2022, after his pickup truck plummeted from Snow Creek Bridge, which had collapsed nearly a decade earlier.
“It was a dark and rainy night and he was following his GPS which led him down a concrete road to a bridge that dropped off into a river,” a post written by his mother-in-law Linda McPhee Koenig on Facebook read.
“It lacked any barriers or warning signs to prevent the death of a 47-year-old father of two daughters,” the post continued. “He will be greatly missed by his family and friends. It was a totally preventable accident. We are grieving his death.”
The Paxson family’s legal filing targeted Google as well as the three private property management companies responsible for the land surrounding the crash site.
In the case of the tech giant, the lawsuit claims that the outdated directions provided by Maps indicating that it was possible to cross the bridge had been repeatedly flagged by residents in the years preceding the accident.
Developers of GPS products like Google Maps, the filing suggested, “have a duty and responsibility to timely update their maps” and especially “if and when notified of hazards posed by the … navigation route.”
With respect to the companies responsible for the property surrounding the bridge, the filing claims that they all ignored community members’ calls to “place reasonable and proper barricades in front of the hazard to alert drivers of the deadly drop.”
As of April 6, 2023, the navigation route provided by Google Maps still indicated that the bridge was passable, the filing alleged.
Paxson’s wife, Alicia Paxson, said in a statement shortly after the filing: “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. … No one should ever lose a loved one this way, and we want to make sure our voices are heard.”
The family seeks compensatory and punitive damages from all parties for wrongful death.
A Google spokesperson expressed the company’s condolences in a statement published by The Guardian that read: “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.”
Paxson’s case is one of several tragic accidents to be blamed on allegedly misleading Google Maps instructions. For instance, an 18-year-old in Russia reportedly froze to death after becoming stranded while following a route in 2020, and a truck driver in Jakarta, Indonesia, died the year before after apparently following a route that drove him off a cliff.
Erroneous GPS routes have long been a source of frustration, as reported in The Dallas Express. Apple Maps received so much criticism from customers that Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a public apology in 2012.