Family sue Google after father, 47, died while driving home from celebrating his daughter's ninth birthday when its 'outdated' maps 'guided him over a bridge that washed away years before'

  • Post category:news
  • Reading time:6 min(s) read

  • Philip Paxson, 47, was using Google Maps after his daughter’s birthday party
  • But the GPS put him on the unfamiliar path in Hickory, North Carolina in 2022
  • He drove on to a bridge that collapsed a decade earlier and was never repaired
  • His family filed a lawsuit in Wake County Tuesday against Google over his death

The family of a man from North Carolina who died after driving off a collapsed bridge while following Google Maps directions is suing the tech giant for negligence claiming it had failed to update its navigation system.

US Navy veteran Philip Paxson, 47, was using Google Maps to drive home from his eldest daughter’s ninth birthday party in Hickory, North Carolina on September 30, 2022.

But the GPS put him on the unfamiliar path of a bridge that collapsed nearly a decade earlier and was never repaired, causing him to drown.

The father-of-two’s family filed a lawsuit in Wake County on Tuesday against Google and blamed the company for his death.

Paxson’s Jeep plunged off an unguarded edge, crashed 20 feet below and he drowned, according to the lawsuit. 

The family of Philip Paxson, 47, from North Carolina who died after driving off a collapsed bridge is suing Google for negligence and said it failed to update its navigation system

The family of Philip Paxson, 47, from North Carolina who died after driving off a collapsed bridge is suing Google for negligence and said it failed to update its navigation system

He was using Google Maps to drive home from his eldest daughter's ninth birthday party in Hickory, North Carolina on September 30, 2022

He was using Google Maps to drive home from his eldest daughter’s ninth birthday party in Hickory, North Carolina on September 30, 2022

But the GPS put him on the unfamiliar path of a bridge that collapsed nearly a decade earlier and was never repaired, causing him to drown

But the GPS put him on the unfamiliar path of a bridge that collapsed nearly a decade earlier and was never repaired, causing him to drown

‘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 widow Alicia Paxson said.

State troopers who found Paxton’s body in his overturned and partially submerged truck had said there were no barriers or warning signs along the washed-out roadway. 

He had driven off an unguarded edge and crashed about 20 feet below, according to the lawsuit.

Paxson and his wife had planned a camping trip for their daughter’s birthday but had to suddenly change plans because of an impending storm. 

The family held a camping-themed party at a friends home in the are of Hickory, 50 miles north of Charlotte. The lawsuit says that Paxson was not familiar with Hickory.  He traveled separately from his wife. 

The father-of-two's family filed a lawsuit in Wake County on Tuesday against Google and blamed the company for his death

The father-of-two’s family filed a lawsuit in Wake County on Tuesday against Google and blamed the company for his death

Multiple people had notified Google Maps about the collapse in the years leading up to Paxson’s death and had urged the company to update its route information, according to the lawsuit.

The court filing includes email records from another Hickory resident who had used the map’s ‘suggest an edit’ feature in September 2020 to alert the company that it was directing drivers over the collapsed bridge. 

A November 2020 email confirmation from Google confirms the company received her report and was reviewing the suggested change, but the lawsuit claims Google took no further actions.

‘We have the deepest sympathies for the Paxson family,’ a Google spokesman said.  ‘Our goal is to provide accurate routing information in Maps and we are reviewing this lawsuit.’

‘As of April 26, 2023, and upon information and belief at other times thereafter, the collapsed bridge was still depicted as a passable road on Google Maps […] despite the Google Map Defendants having been placed on notice yet again of the danger,’ another section of lawsuit reads. 

Paxon's Jeep plunged off an unguarded edge, crashed 20 feet below and he drowned, according to the lawsuit

Paxon’s Jeep plunged off an unguarded edge, crashed 20 feet below and he drowned, according to the lawsuit

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator Phil acquired just days before his fatal crash. It is suspected that his GPS guided him into the ravine where a bridge used to stand

The 2020 Jeep Gladiator Phil acquired just days before his fatal crash. It is suspected that his GPS guided him into the ravine where a bridge used to stand

The North Carolina State Patrol had said the bridge was not maintained by local or state officials, and the original developer´s company had dissolved. 

The lawsuit names Hickory businessman James Tarlton and companies Tarde LLC and Hinckley Gauvain LLC as the owners of the bridge and the surrounding land, according to the Hickory Record.

Tarlton and the two businesses have been accused of failing to repair the damaged bridge and not providing enough lighting to prevent people from crashing into Snow Creek.

‘It still doesn’t seem real,’ Alicia said during a press conference on Wednesday.

She departed their daughter’s birthday party earlier with their daughters while Paxon stayed behind to help clean up. 

‘How is it nine years that this did not happen, and why did it have to be him?’ Alicia said at the time. ‘Like, why do my kids have to have no dad now, you know?’

Multiple people notified Google Maps about the collapse in the years leading up to Paxson's death and had urged the company to update its route information, according to the lawsuit

Multiple people notified Google Maps about the collapse in the years leading up to Paxson’s death and had urged the company to update its route information, according to the lawsuit

His widow Alicia Paxon said: '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 widow Alicia Paxon said: ‘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’

Phil, 47, is remembered as a father, husband, and friend to many. Tributes to the father of two young girls praise his humor and good nature

Phil, 47, is remembered as a father, husband, and friend to many. Tributes to the father of two young girls praise his humor and good nature

After celebrating the newly nine-year-old’s birthday at a family friend’s house, ‘we packed up all the decorations, he packed up the van, and he loaded the girls into the van,’ she said. 

Paxon ‘had a lifelong affection for muscle cars, motorcycles, dirt bikes, boats, really anything with a motor,’ his obituary read. 

‘He traveled the world with his father-in-law riding motorcycles. He and his wife along with their two daughters enjoyed camping and boating with family and friends. Phil put his family first and his friends, almost equal, second.

‘He was larger than life, always ready for an adventure, with a permanent smile on his face, he would give you the shirt off his back or talk you out of the one on yours.’

At the time of his death, he worked as a medical device salesman.  




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