A man was following the directions of the Google Maps mobile application when his car toppled off a collapsed bridge. The man didn’t survive the fall, and now, his family is suing the parties who they say should have prevented the accident from happening.
What led to this tragedy, and who will be held responsible?
A Preventable Accident
On the night of September 30, 2022, Philip Paxson, 47, was driving to his home near Hickory, North Carolina. It was raining, and Paxson was in an area he was unfamiliar with. The father of two was leaving a birthday party that he had attended with his wife and children. They left the party while Paxson stayed after to help clean up.
To direct him home, Paxson turned on Google Maps. He followed the app’s directions as it told him to turn on a road with a bridge — but the bridge was not there. Per reporting by Fox 13, the bridge leading across Snow Creek was in disrepair and uncrossable, and it didn’t have any barriers or warning signs.
As Paxton came upon the bridge, his Jeep Gladiator dropped twenty feet and flipped over into the creek. Paxson was trapped in the car and drowned.
A Case of Negligence
The bridge that Google Maps told Paxson to cross had collapsed nine years earlier.
Despite being a visible hazard and known to the public, the bridge had never been repaired and had not been removed from Google Maps route information.
North Carolina State Patrol says the state is not responsible. They say the road and bridge are not maintained by local or state officials.
Paxson’s family is suing the people they say are responsible.
The family filed a lawsuit for negligence in North Carolina’s Wake County Superior Court. The lawsuit names two businesses and an individual — Hinckley Gauvain LLC, Tarde LLC, and James Tarlton, who owns Tarde. The family says these entities owned, controlled, and were responsible for the collapsed bridge and the land it is on.
The family is also suing Google, which is owned by the parent company Alphabet.
Is Google Liable?
The lawsuit accuses Google of being negligent leading up to the accident.
According to the lawsuit, multiple people had contacted Google Maps, notified them about the washed-out bridge, and asked them to update the route information.
The lawsuit mentions a record of the “suggest and edit” feature used in September 2020. It includes a copy of an email notification from Google confirming that it received the report about the bridge and that the company was reviewing the suggested change, but nothing was done.
Over a year after the accident, Google Maps is still directing drivers to cross the collapsed bridge, and the bridge has not been repaired, according to The New York Times.
“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,” Paxson family attorney Robert Zimmerman said in a statement to CNN.
“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,” he went on.
A Wrongful Death Claim
The lawsuit against Google and the additional parties claims negligence and willful and wanton conduct by the companies. It seeks an unspecified amount in punitive damages.
For Paxson’s family to win their case, they will need to prove:
- The accident was due to the negligence of the named parties.
- The at-fault parties had an opportunity to make the situation safe but failed to act.
- The accident led to physical, financial, and emotional damages.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, which go beyond the scope of compensation generally given in civil lawsuits. Punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, are additional damages awarded to punish defendants for outrageous behavior and to motivate them to reform their actions to prevent similar future incidents.
Seek Justice for Wrongful Death
You deserve to live, work, and travel in conditions that are safe. If you or a loved one were injured or harmed as the result of a company’s or person’s negligence, you are entitled to damages and justice.
Talk to a personal injury or wrongful death attorney about the situation that led to the injury, and get a plan to fight to get what is due to you. Talk to TJ Grimaldi to see how he can fight to get compensation and justice for you or your loved one. Schedule your consultation or call 813-226-1023 now.