$54 million lawsuit filed against DTE Energy for tree cutting

A utility company chopped down trees to protect power lines but one resident calling it malicious has filed a lawsuit.

With the damage to her landscape done, Inge Gray and her attorney Geoffrey Fieger says DTE Energy and tree removal company Davey Tree have to pay.

"It was a horrible violation to see happen," said Gray. "And I just wanted some sort of legal protection around that happening for anyone else."

The Bloomfield Township homeowner filed suit for $54 million for unlawful destruction.  A number that Gray said comes when you add up the scope of the damage.

"The amount of trees they took, the age of the trees, the species of the trees, how it affects everyone's property value," Gray said. 

It is a story you first saw on FOX 2 in December when 100-year-old trees in the back of her home off Kensington Road were completely removed. 

In December, DTE had this to say:

"About half of the outages that we have on the electrical system come from trees," said Trevor Lauer, senior vice-president at DTE. "And the number one goal of removing trees is to reduce the number of outages."

At the time Gray said they weren't told about the plan to completely remove the trees. a matter DTE addressed in December. 

"Clearly we had some customers that do not feel that they were notified in the appropriate manner," Lauer said at the time. "And that's something that we can learn from."

Gray said she has not heard from DTE since - but she did make contact with Fieger who told her what the ulitilty company did was in his opinion, against the law.

"You cannot clear trees off people's property without their permission," Gray said. 

DTE issued a statement saying it hasn't been served with a lawsuit and can't comment on the specifics.

"We follow Michigan Public Service Commission and National Arborist Association guidelines when we work with trees, and notify our customers before doing so."

DTE has told FOX 2 in the past that their primary priority is keeping the lights on to as many customers as possible and know that it is impossible to keep every customer happy all the time. 
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