Rowlett, Texas resident Lindsay Diaz has had a pretty rough couple of months.
A devastating tornado last December left Diaz and her 8-month old daughter temporarily displaced, their home too damaged to reside in. But while the damage to her home was no doubt devastating, the structure itself was deemed repairable. This news was a godsend to the underinsured Diaz, who could not afford the high premiums that come with demolition and rebuilding.
Diaz’s contractor was ready to submit a building permit to the city to begin the repair process, when suddenly, Diaz received a phone call from a frantic neighbor.
“My neighbor called me. She was hysterical and crying. She said, ‘I hope you’re sitting down. Someone demolished the house by mistake.’ I was so upset, and I was just hoping that it was a bad joke – that someone was messing with me. But I got there, and it was just a slab. They took everything.”
The demolition company responsible for this horrifying blunder, Billy L. Nabors Demolition, has not apologized to Diaz for destroying her home and all the pricey and priceless items within it (including her vintage Coca-Cola collection), nor have they claimed any formal responsibility.
Instead, the company is pointing the blame at an unlikely source: Google.
The demolition crew directed themselves to their job site using Google Maps, verified the house number over the phone upon arriving at the location, and then they demolished the house that existed on that property. The team did everything they were supposed to do step-by-step, so how on earth did Diaz’s home end up getting demolished?
Diaz’s home (7601 Calypso Drive) and the intended demolition target (7601 Cousteau Drive) each exist at the end of the their respective street with only 344 feet separating the two (as seen in the graphic below), so it’s fair to assume that this isn’t the first time visitors looking for house number 7601 have made this mistake. Only difference is, those visitors didn’t show up with wrecking equipment.
The tornado knocked down street signs in this neighborhood, so services such as Google Maps and Apple Maps became essential for visitors and contractors attempting to reach their destination. But a Google Maps error mistakingly directed anyone looking to find 7601 Cousteau Drive to Diaz’s house instead (as seen in the graphic below).
Based on all of these factors, the accidental leveling of Diaz’s house by Billy L. Nabors Demolition doesn’t appear to be negligent, and truthfully, it’s understandable why the company would be upset with Google. But as far as legality is concerned, would the demolition company even be able to successfully sue Google for damages?
Here is what Google Map’s terms and conditions has to say about this matter:
When you use Google Maps/Google Earth’s map data, traffic, directions, and other Content, you may find that actual conditions differ from the map results and Content, so exercise your independent judgment and use Google Maps/Google Earth at your own risk. You’re responsible at all times for your conduct and its consequences.
So no, the company will not be able to successfully file a suit against Google…. but that hasn’t stopped people from trying in the past.
In 2010 a woman sued Google for issuing her walking directions that led her onto a highway, where she was subsequently struck by a car. Google Maps walking directions were in Beta stage at that time, and Google did issue warnings about their accuracy, but come on.. it doesn’t take a genius to realize that walking onto a highway is probably a bad idea.
If the demolition company does decide to file a lawsuit against Google, then only one person in this story would suffer: Lindsey Diaz.
“I was hoping for an apology – ‘I’m sorry my company did this, we’ll make it better,’ and instead he’s telling me how the insurance is going to handle it, and telling me that it’s going to be a nasty fight.”
The company wants to protect their reputation, but a lawsuit would only throw Diaz and her family into a legal quagmire, hindering her from getting settled into a new home quickly. Diaz, not the company, is the victim here, and regardless of whether or not the demolition company feels 100% responsible, the fact remains that they did in fact demolish her home.
Lindsey Diaz and her family are owed a debt, and the first payment is simple: an apology.
Billy L. Nabors Demolition, it’s your move.