In a heartbreaking turn of events, Google finds itself embroiled in a lawsuit filed by a grieving widow who alleges that her husband tragically lost his life in September 2022 due to erroneous Google Maps directions. The lawsuit, initiated by Alicia Paxson and filed in Wake County Superior Court, asserts that Google neglected to rectify its mapping service despite prior warnings about a compromised bridge in Hickory, North Carolina.
According to the complaint, Philip Paxson met with a devastating fate while returning from his daughter’s ninth birthday celebration when he unwittingly drove onto an unmarked, unbarricaded collapsed bridge in Hickory, North Carolina, all while following GPS instructions.
The ill-fated Snow Creek Bridge reportedly collapsed back in 2013 and has not undergone repair since. Although barricades were typically in place to prevent such incidents, they had been removed following vandalism and were notably absent when Paxson’s accident occurred, as reported by The Charlotte Observer.
The lawsuit names five defendants, including Google and its parent company, Alphabet. The other defendants are James Tarlton and two local business entities, Tarde, LLC, and Hinckley Gauvain, LLC, who were deemed responsible for the property containing the bridge.
According to the lawsuit, “The Bridge Defendants refused to properly maintain the bridge, leaving it in a horrendously dangerous state of disrepair for years.” It further asserts that these defendants failed to take reasonable measures such as adequate barricades or routine inspections to ensure driver safety.
Photographs provided by the law firm demonstrate that “Road Closed” signs and barriers had been placed on either side of the bridge, although these crucial warnings were absent at the time of the accident.
The lawsuit highlights a concerning timeline. In September 2020, a Hickory resident named Kim Ellis utilized the “Suggest An Edit” feature on Google Maps to notify the tech giant about the washed-away Snow Creek Bridge. Despite this notification, Google took no action. Ellis persisted, contacting Google once more in November 2020, imploring them to update their navigation system. The lawsuit includes confirmation emails from Google in response to both reports and asserts that other concerned citizens had also alerted Google to the hazardous situation.
In a shocking revelation, the lawsuit reveals that as of April 6, 2023, and possibly beyond, Google Maps continued to depict the collapsed bridge as a passable road when providing directions from the birthday party site to the Paxson’s home, despite Google’s prior knowledge of the danger.
This tragedy has led to the revelation that local residents had colloquially named the ill-fated bridge “The Bridge to Nowhere.” Attorney Robert Zimmerman from the law firm Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky stated, “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.” Zimmerman added that Google had “refused to correct its mapping algorithms despite repeated pleas” from residents.
This heartbreaking incident underscores the importance of accurate mapping services and the potential consequences of failing to address known hazards promptly.