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Family sues Google over bridge collapse death

Lawsuit alleges Google's role in bridge fatality

Source: Business Insider

The family of a North Carolina man who died trying to cross a collapsed bridge is suing Google for negligence, saying it's responsible for directing him along the route, their lawyers announced Wednesday.

John Paxson, 47, was driving home on September 30, 2022, when his pickup truck went off the edge of a washed-out bridge on the outskirts of Hickory, a city northeast of Charlotte, local outlet WSOC-TV reported last year.

According to the outlet, he was returning alone from a party for his nine-year-old daughter. He had only recently moved to the area, his lawyer, Bob Zimmerman, wrote in a statement.

"Unfamiliar with local roads, he relied on Google Maps, expecting it would safely direct him home to his wife and daughters," he wrote.

"Tragically, as he drove cautiously in the darkness and rain, he unsuspectingly followed Google's outdated directions to what his family later learned for nearly a decade was called the 'Bridge to Nowhere,' crashing into Snow Creek, where he drowned."

The lawsuit also names several private property companies it said were responsible for maintaining the bridge, according to the lawyers.

"Nobody wanted to take responsibility. I don't understand how over nine years this could be like this," his wife, Alicia Paxson, told WSOC-TV soon after his death.

Jon Hopson, Paxson's friend, told local outlet the Hickory Daily Record that there were no nearby signs indicating that the bridge had collapsed. Barriers that normally blocked the route had been removed due to vandalism, the Charlotte Observer reported.

In the years running up to the accident, several people had contacted Google about the bridge, asking the company to update Maps, the Associated Press reported, citing the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said the company acknowledged receipt of at least one of the notifications, saying it was looking into it, but no further action was taken, according to the AP.

"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," Alicia said in the statement released by her lawyers.

In a statement sent to Insider, Google spokesperson José Castañeda said: "We have the deepest sympathies for the Paxson family. Our goal is to provide accurate routing information in Maps and we are reviewing this lawsuit."

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