Man who lost kids, job after house fire sues Warren County, insurance company

A former Warren County man against whom arson and child endangering charges were dropped last year has sued local officials and governments, as well as the insurance company that denied his claim after a fire at his home in April 2018.

Timothy Hartwig claims in the lawsuit filed in Warren County Common Pleas Court that he lost his home, children and a job paying him $110,000 a year as a result of flawed investigation and the Pekin Insurance Co.’s failure to cover his claim.

The 18-page lawsuit, filed as the statute of limitation was about to end, claims investigations by a county arson unit and the insurance company were botched. It lists nine counts ranging from breach of contract to defamation, and calls for “in excess of” $25,0000 in punitive damages and $25,000 in compensatory damages on each count.

Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said, “Many of the allegations in the lawsuit are just factually wrong” and will be answered fully during the litigation “if need be.”

RELATED: Lawyer: Warren County father not guilty of arson with children at home

Lebanon City Attorney Mark Yurick said the city is forwarding the lawsuit to Illinois-based Pekin, which declined comment.

Yurick said the Lebanon Fire Department official named in the suit, Anthony Terrace, conducted a fire investigation to assist Warren County.

“Obviously, we had no part in deciding whether to charge anyone for an offense,” Yurick added.

Hamilton Twp., where Hartwig was living at the time, also named in the lawsuit, did not respond to a request for comment.

Hartwig, who maintained his innocence from the beginning, was indicted in August 2018 and held in jail, before posting bond.

Hartwig, now living in the Cincinnati area, was accused of setting the fire on April 5, 2018, at his home on Honeysuckle Lane, according to a press release issued by Hamilton Twp. Police Chief Scott Hughes.

Hartwig’s first defense lawyer, Griff Nowicki, indicated Hartwig and his family were victims of social media attacks after the case became public.

In June 2019, Judge Robert Peeler dismissed the case in response to a motion by prosecutors indicating, “there is insufficient evidence to proceed with prosecution given the testing results of the evidence in this matter.”

RELATED: Judge dismisses Warren County man’s home arson case

On Monday Fornshell, who is sued as an individual and on behalf of the county, added, “Generally speaking, I’m very pleased with how our office handled this case. We continued our investigation even after the grand jury indicted the defendant. It was through our office’s efforts that additional relevant evidence came to light. And when that happened, we dismissed the charges against the defendant. I believe we acted precisely how the public expects prosecutors to act under such circumstances.”

On Tuesday, the Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz law firm issued a press release, calling the lawsuit a ” bad-faith insurance complaint.”

“The incidence of insurance companies wrongfully denying insurance claims is all too commonplace. This lawsuit is an insurance bad-faith case based on the insurance company acting in its own self-interest without reasonable justification instead of providing coverage and benefits for a routine fire loss,” John Smalley, Hartwig’s lawyer, said in the press release.

RELATED: Warren County man charged with arson, children in home

About the Author