Around midnight on August 14, 2021, Lebanon Mayor Mark Messer’s house caught fire. The house and the personal property inside were destroyed as a result.
Allstate, the Messers’ insurance company, investigated the fire and found that it was “more likely than not” intentionally caused by the actions or directions of the insured person, according to a letter filed in the US District Court last week.
The investigation also found it was more likely than not that Messer misrepresented or concealed information related to the fire and property loss.
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Messer and his wife filed a lawsuit in the Warren County Court of Common Pleas against Allstate for breach of contract and bad faith in June.
Messer’s attorney Matthew Brown said in a statement to The Enquirer that the Messers’ lives were “turned upside down” by the fire and that they’ve provided information to Allstate for many months in an effort to rebuild their house and their lives.
Brown said Allstate refused every request the Messers made to obtain information about the fire and has refused to honor its commitment to stand by its insured in times of tragedy.
“Only after they were sued did Allstate respond in an effort to cover up their failure to protect their insured in this tragedy by formulating false and salacious allegations. We look forward to presenting this case in court and holding Allstate accountable to their insured,” Brown said.
The Enquirer called and emailed the two lawyers representing Allstate in the lawsuit but did not immediately receive a response.
In their complaint, the Messers said Allstate implied certain documents were required under the insurance policy when they were not. They also said Allstate’s “foot-dragging” in investigating the fire means the cost of rebuilding their house has increased significantly.
In court documents, Allstate denied misrepresenting the insurance policy and any delays in handling the Messers’ claim.
In November 2021, Allstate asked the Messers to provide documents including tax returns, bank statements, phone records and documents related to the house’s remodeling. Allstate also asked for access to Messer’s personal Facebook archive, according to the complaint the Messers filed.
The Messers said they provided the documents and access because Allstate implied the documents were required under the insurance policy.
Allstate denied asking for anything not required under the policy. The company said the Messers responded to some but not all of its requests for information.
Allstate said in a letter to the Messers that its investigation determined it is more likely than not the Messers “misrepresented and/or concealed information” related to where they were and what they were doing around the time of the fire and phone calls and texts with certain people on the day of the fire.
The Ohio Fire Marshal is investigating the fire. The cause remains undetermined.
Erin Glynn is the watchdog reporter for Butler, Warren and Clermont counties through the Report For America program. The Enquirer needs local donors to help fund her grant-funded position. If you want to support Glynn’s work, you can donate to her Report For America position at this website or email her editor Carl Weiser at [email protected] to find out how you can help fund her work.
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