Stormy (left) and Bear sit together on a couch in an undated photo. The two dogs were killed in a 2019 fire that destroyed the Hartford home of Matt and Veronica Horn. The Horns are suing two major electronics companies and a national retail chain, saying a portable air conditioner they had recently bought caught fire. Credit: Courtesy of Matt and Veronica Horn

A Turner family is suing two major electronics companies and a national retail chain after a portable air conditioner they bought caught fire, burning their lake house to the ground and killing two dogs.

Matt and Veronica Horn on Wednesday sued LG Electronics, Hisense and Home Depot in U.S. District Court in Maine for liability, negligence and breach of warranty.

The lawsuit came more than three years after they claimed a brand-new LG air conditioner they had bought started a fire in the couple’s home on Bear Pond in Hartford that destroyed the house, their belongings and killed two dogs.

The dogs, a black Labrador retriever puppy named Stormy and a golden retriever named Bear, were both found dead in the rubble of the fire.

Their burned corpses were found curled up together underneath the bed in the master bedroom of the home, according to the Horns’ complaint.

The Horns’ attorney, Alexis Chardon, said the couple is seeking justice for their dogs and the trauma they have had to endure. They are seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

“My clients are very ready for their day in court and are looking forward to it,” she said.

The Horns said in their complaint that they purchased a portable air conditioner made by Hisense and LG at a Home Depot in Auburn on June 7, 2019. The Horns took the air conditioner out of the box on July 5, 2019, and installed it for the first time, according to the Horns’ complaint.

That night, the Horns were joined in their Bear Pond house by their daughter, Jessica, and her partner, John, as well as their puppy, Stormy. Jessica Horn awoke early the next morning to Stormy whimpering in her crate near the air conditioner, which had caught fire, the complaint said.

Matt and Veronica Horn’s Bear Pond home, pictured here, was destroyed by a fire in 2019. Credit: Courtesy of GoFundMe.com

The fire spread from the unit to the frame around the nearby window, quickly igniting the side of the home as Jessica Horn freed Stormy from her crate.

Together, the three Horns and their daughter’s partner struggled to escape as the home filled with smoke and flames. Once they were safely outside, the family knew the dogs remained trapped inside, and they had no way to safely save them, according to the Horns’ complaint.

“The family watched as their beloved house burned to the ground, knowing their dogs were burning alive,” the lawsuit states.

A forensic examination found that the house fire was started by the air conditioner, the complaint said. Specifically, the overload protector — a part of the compressor meant to prevent an electrical overload — was defective. Without a functioning protector, an air conditioner can overheat and ignite, the Horns’ complaint said.

LG Electronics and Hisense knew that the particular air conditioner model the Horns purchased at Home Depot possessed this defective overload protector, according to the couple’s complaint.

It was similar to, if not the same as, a defective overload protector found in an older model of the air conditioner, the complaint said. That model was recalled in December 2016 after it was found to have caused at least four fires, resulting in $380,000 worth of property damage, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In addition to losing their home and many of their belongings in the fire, the Horns also suffered physical injuries and were traumatized by the experience, according to their complaint.

The state fire marshal’s office investigated the fire. The house was determined to be a total loss, and no definitive cause of the fire could be identified due to the extent of damage, said Shannon Moss, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

“The home owners were sleeping and woke to the fire,” Moss said. “They had just installed a new air conditioning unit. It is possible that was the cause of the fire, but they will never know for sure because of the extent of the damage.”

LG, Hisense and Home Depot have not yet filed a response to the suit in federal court. LG and Home Depot declined to comment. Hisense did not respond to a request for comment.

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is a reporter covering Old Town, Orono and the surrounding areas. A recent graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he's worked for Vermont Public Radio, The...