Philip Paxson was a 47-year-old man from North Carolina. He lost his life on September 30, 2022, after his GPS led him to a defunct bridge that dropped off into a creek. He worked as a medical device salesman.
On the night of September 30, 2022, Philip Paxson, the 47-year-old father of two, was driving home from his daughter’s camping-themed ninth birthday party in Hickory, a City in North Carolina.
He was using Google Maps to navigate his way back, as he was unfamiliar with the area. It was a dark and rainy night, and the visibility was poor.
Google Maps directed him to take a route that involved crossing the Snow Creek Bridge, a bridge that had collapsed in 2013 and had never been repaired. The bridge was unmarked and unbarricaded, and Paxson had no way of knowing that it was out of service.
He drove onto the bridge and plunged 20 feet into the creek below. He was trapped inside his Jeep Gladiator and drowned. He was the only one in the vehicle.
“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,” Paxson’s mother-in-law, Linda McPhee Koenig, said in a Tuesday Facebook post.
“The bridge had been destroyed [nine] years ago and never repaired. It lacked any barriers or warning signs to prevent the d*eath of a 47 year old [sic] father of two daughters. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends. It was a totally preventable accident. We are grieving his de*ath.”
In an interview, Paxson’s wife, Alicia Paxson, explained that after the party, she had taken their two daughters home in her car while her husband, Mr. Paxson, remained behind to clean up. sadly, he drove separately to his de*ath.
“This is horrific, what our family is going through,” she said.
Mrs. Paxson was clearly devastated by the situation that could have been easily avoided. She revealed that she had examined her husband’s phone after the crash and found out that he had relied on Google Maps to find his way home from the party.
Google’s spokesperson, José Castañeda, expressed the company’s sincere condolences to the Paxson family. He said that the company’s goal was to provide accurate and reliable routing information in Google Maps.
Google Maps has been directing drivers to cross the bridge that had collapsed in 2013 for several years. In November 2020, Google Maps acknowledged receiving a complaint from a Hickory resident regarding the hazardous route recommendation but still continued suggesting the same route.
The Family Files Lawsuits
On Tuesday, September 21, 2023, Paxson’s wife filed some lawsuits in Wake County Superior Court, North Carolina.
“This was a crater literally in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” Robert Zimmerman, a lawyer for Mrs. Paxson, said. “It’d be one thing if it was there for a day or a week, but it was there for nine years.”
According to Mr. Zimmerman, almost a year has passed since Mr. Paxson’s tra*gic demise, but the bridge remains unrepaired, and Google Maps continues to guide drivers to cross it.
Google was not the only company sued, the other defendants – Hinckley Gauvain L.L.C., Tarde L.L.C., and James Tarlton (who, according to state records, is the owner of Tarde).
Hinckley Gauvain L.L.C. and James Tarlton were sued in this case because they were the owners of the bridge and the nearby land that Philip Paxson drove off and di*ed. According to the lawsuit, they were negligent in failing to maintain, repair, or barricade the bridge that had collapsed in 2013 and had never been fixed.