HICKORY, N.C. – The family of a North Carolina man who tragically drowned after his vehicle plunged off a collapsed bridge is taking legal action against Google. They allege that the tech behemoth’s navigation app, Google Maps, directed the man to the unsafe route, despite repeated warnings about the bridge’s condition.
Philip Paxson, a 47-year-old medical device salesman and U.S. Navy veteran, was driving home from his daughter’s birthday party on the night of September 30, 2022, when the fatal accident occurred. According to the lawsuit, Google Maps guided Paxson to a route that included a bridge that had been out of commission for nearly a decade, having collapsed in 2013.
Paxson, who had relocated to Hickory from Florida with his family in 2020, was driving his Jeep Gladiator in the dark and rain when he followed the app’s directions, leading him to what locals had dubbed the “Bridge to Nowhere.” The vehicle crashed into Snow Creek, resulting in Paxson’s untimely death.
The lawsuit, filed by Saltz Mongeluzzi Bendesky on behalf of Paxson’s wife, Alicia Paxson, also names two companies and an individual, James Tarlton, identified as the owners of the land where the bridge is located. The complaint alleges that Google ignored multiple warnings from Hickory residents about the bridge’s dangerous condition.
The lawsuit further claims that Google received numerous notifications about the bridge’s unsafe state, including at least one communication that included a news article detailing the danger. Despite these warnings, the company allegedly failed to update its navigation system, leading to the tragic incident.
State troopers who discovered Paxson’s body in his overturned and partially submerged vehicle reported that there were no barriers or warning signs along the washed-out roadway. The lawsuit also implicates several private property management companies, alleging they are responsible for the bridge and the adjoining land.
The lawsuit includes email records from a Hickory resident who alerted Google in September 2020 about the collapsed bridge. Google acknowledged receipt of the report and stated it was under review, but according to the lawsuit, no further action was taken. A spokesperson for Google, which has a registered office in Raleigh, has yet to comment on the lawsuit.