A tragic incident has led to a lawsuit against Google, as the family of a North Carolina man alleges that the company’s Maps application played a role in a fatal accident.
The lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, reveals the heart-wrenching story of Philip Paxson, who was using Google Maps to find his way home after his daughter’s 9th birthday party. The navigation system directed him over an unmarked and unbarricaded bridge that had collapsed several years earlier, leading to the fatal accident in Hickory, North Carolina.
According to the lawsuit, neighbors had previously expressed concerns about Google Maps directing drivers over this hazardous bridge, which had not been repaired since its partial collapse in 2013. The Paxson family attorney, Robert Zimmerman, lamented the lack of action, stating, “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. 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.”
Despite residents’ attempts to notify Google Maps of the perilous bridge, the application continued to guide drivers over it. The lawsuit includes a report made to Google Maps by a concerned individual requesting an update to the navigation system. The report stated, “You are not able to cross this road. GPS sends people down here, which is especially dangerous for emergency vehicles. Please update this map so GPS is accurate.” The court filing indicates that the person received an automated response from Google Maps acknowledging the report.
In addition to Google, the Paxson family is suing Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and two local companies responsible for maintaining the land and bridge, as well as ensuring proper barricades and warning signs. The lawsuit alleges negligence and willful misconduct on the part of these companies and seeks unspecified punitive damages.
Google responded to the lawsuit with a statement expressing condolences for the Paxson family and asserting its commitment to providing accurate routing information. The company stated, “Our goal is to provide accurate routing information in maps, and we are reviewing this lawsuit.”
As the legal battle unfolds, Philip Paxson’s family continues to grapple with the devastating loss. His wife, Alicia Paxson, shared the profound impact of the tragedy on their daughters, who spent their first Father’s Day without their dad. The family seeks justice, hoping that their voices will be heard, and that no one else should endure such a heartbreaking loss due to a navigation error.
Larry Bendesky, the family’s attorney, emphasized the trust placed in navigation apps like Google Maps and the tragic consequences of system failures, stating, “His trust in Google Maps, and the failure of the road and bridge-keepers to do their jobs, cost him his life.”
The lawsuit serves as a reminder of the critical role that accurate navigation systems play in ensuring the safety of countless travelers and the responsibility of technology companies to uphold this trust.