Owners react to Indian Hill fire investigation

Posted at 5:39 PM, Sep 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-29 17:39:39-04

CINCINNATI -- Jeffrey and Maria Decker, the couple whose multimillion dollar Indian Hill mansion burned to the ground in January 2014, say an insurance company investigating the blaze is trying to "publicly humiliate" them.

New court documents filed in federal court last Monday reveal details of the case Chubb National Insurance Company is trying to build against the Deckers.

The Deckers' attorney replied in a brief filed on Friday, calling Chubb National's 23-page filing a series of "misstatements of the law and facts," and an "attempt to assassinate [the Deckers'] character and credibility."

The Deckers filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Chubb National in February after the insurer declined to cover losses in the fire that consumed their 10,000-square-foot home in the 9600 block of Cunningham Road under the couple's policy.

Monday's filings by Chubb National were part of the counter suit it filed against the Deckers in April that, in part, accused them of misrepresenting their losses.

GALLERY: See photos of crews battling the massive fire

Exhibit 17 in Monday's documents, a Chubb special investigation unit report, details interviews with Matt Murphy, a former insurance agent for the Deckers and one of the first people the Deckers called to the home day of fire.

Much of the report involving Murphy centers around a dispute concerning money Jeffrey Decker claimed to have lost in one of two safes inside his house.

Decker first told authorities he kept $500,000 in the safe, according to initial reports. He changed that amount to between $40 to $80,000 when Indian Hill Rangers opened both safes in front of him and only found the remains of a few bills.

In the company's investigation, Murphy stands by his testimony that Jeffrey Decker told him he had $500,000 in the safe as they watched the house burn on Jan. 10. The report goes on to state that Murphy told investigators that Jeffrey Decker later asked him to change his story about the money.

Murphy told Chubb investigators that Decker suggested he “misheard” what was said and that it was Iraqi Dinars, not U.S. dollars, in the safe. Murphy states in the report that he told Decker he knew what he heard and refused to change his story.

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The Deckers' former insurance agent also reported a prior claim filed by the Deckers with Cincinnati Insurance Company in 2006. During the construction of the home that burned, the Deckers were living in another home on the property, Murphy stated.

A ditch dug for construction of the new home led to surface water flooding issues in that home and caused $100,000 in damages. The Decker claim was first denied, but later rewarded under an insurance policy for Decker's construction company, Murphy said. He also believed the money received from the claim went to construction of the new house, not repairs of the old house that was eventually torn down, the document shows.

The Deckers are suing Chubb National Insurance Co. for $59.9 million for denying the claim.

The couple in turn has argued the insurer breached its coverage contract “without reasonable justification" when the company refused to pay out on the home insurance they purchased.

RELATED: Indian Hill mansion fire leads to $60 million lawsuit

The Ohio Fire Marshal has not determined a cause for the fire and that investigation is ongoing.

In its original filing, Chubb also claimed investigators analyzed Jeffrey Decker's cellphone records to prove he was not working at a construction site in Blue Ash when his house caught fire, as he had told the company and authorities.  

Instead, the company claims Decker’s cellphone records indicate “he was not miles away” but “at or around” his home 16 minutes before witnesses called 911 to report seeing smoke.

The company concluded Jeffrey purposefully misrepresented “his whereabouts and his activities on the day of the fire and, in particular, his activities and conditions at the Deckers’ residence between 2:09 p.m. and 2:58 p.m. that day, which was shortly before the fire was discovered by witnesses at nearby properties."

The company’s attorneys also claimed Jeffrey misrepresented “the true facts concerning the costs incurred by (the Deckers) to construct the house," “financial conditions prior to the fire,” and “the type and amount of currency in the safe(s) in 9465 Cunningham Road at the time of the fire."

Chubb National's suit asks the Deckers to pay interest, costs and attorneys’ fees the insurance company has incurred in the civil suit.

Chubb National officials said the company did pay the Deckers more than $700,000 to cover living expenses and some losses as they conducted their investigation.