DTE wants $400K for legal fees after residents lose lawsuit

Some Oakland County residents complain that the utility giant DTE is acting like a big bully.

- Some Oakland County residents complain that the utility giant DTE is acting like a big bully.

It's a costly legal battle dating back more than six years.

"Boom, and then a couple of seconds later, boom," said Brian Etter of Sylvan Lake.

Neighbors in Sylvan Lake and Bloomfield Township living near a DTE Energy service center on Orchard Lake Road in Pontiac, say they can't escape the sound of service trucks.

"It could be ear-piercing or it could be an idle hum," said Megan Zumbach of Sylvan Lake. "Either way we're constantly subjected to it."

All hours of the day these neighbors describe smelling diesel fumes and hearing  what they call low rumbling noises.

"You get 10 or 12 big diesel trucks idling," said Etter. "It's deafening, you can't hear anything around here."

They say they endure even louder sounds when DTE drops spent transformers into empty dumpsters.

"Sometimes at 2 or 3 a.m. you hear eight or nine in a row," Etter said. "Would wake everybody else up and it would shake everything."

"My dog is cowering at my side trying to figure out waht's going on," said Geoffrey Burt. "The dog we had at the time was deaf. He would wake up from the vibration from the floor."

The residents complained to their city councils and the Michigan Public Service Commission. The 14 neighbors filed a lawsuit in 2009 asking the court to order DTE to stop the noise and compensate them.

But in 2013 a judge ruled the noise issue was not substantial enough to justify their lawsuit. And now they say, DTE is asking the group for more than $430,000 to pay its attorney fees.

"They're just going after us for that," said Zumbach. "We simply can't afford that. We are working people, we do our jobs. We just want to enjoy our homes and have peace of mind."

Unable to comment on pending litigation, DTE Energy official  Scott Simons released a statement to Fox 2 Wednesday:

"Both the trial court and the Michigan Court of Appeals found in favor of DTE Energy and the Court of Appeals determined that DTE is entitled to sanctions. A Circuit Court judge will determine the amount of those sanctions at a future date."

Since the suit  these neighbors say several of the 14 neighbors originally involved have moved away from the noise. And now these folks may be forced to pay money, they say, none of them have.

FOX 2: "how are you going to pay for that?"

"I have no idea, no idea," said Etter.

"Bankruptcy is one option," said Burt. "It's ridiculous."

The group says a hearing is scheduled for Oct. 21. They say at that point, a judge will determine whether or not they have to pay DTE's attorney fees.

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