Jim Lynch / The Detroit News
STERLING HEIGHTS -- At the same time the Collins family was celebrating the first year in their new home on Giannetti Drive in 2004, the earth literally opened up and appeared ready to swallow their house.
Detroit Todd McInturf / TheNews
Gwenesia Collins, left, and her husband, Corey Collins, feel stuck in their home on Giannetti Drive. The couple said no one would buy their house because a sewer pipe collapsed near it two years ago.
The Collinses, whose house sits less than a football field's length away from 15 Mile Road -- the spot where a mammoth sinkhole opened up in August 2004 when an underground sewer pipe collapsed -- are among those suing the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which owns the pipe.
This week, the Collinses attorney -- who also represents several other homeowners in the area -- will meet with Detroit officials in preliminary settlement conference. To date, things have been contentious.
"They've asked us for all kinds of records and we've provided them with everything they asked for," said Southfield-based attorney Mayer Morganroth.
"They came back and offered one person $2,000," Morganroth said.
When the repair and resurfacing work wrapped up last summer, the Collinses found themselves with a home they fear they have little chance of selling.
D'Agostini & Sons Inc. employee Pat Montgomery moves a hose to make room for a grout machine that will insert stabilizing concrete columns into the sinkhole near 15 Mile. See full image
"Now we feel kind of trapped," said Dr. Gwenesia Collins.
In addition to the individual lawsuits, other legal issues remain unsolved, including who will pay the $53 million repair bill.
In June 2005, Macomb officials sued the Detroit utility in an attempt to keep it from putting the bill exclusively on the shoulders of residents in Macomb County.
Detroit officials said the repairs needed to be paid for by Macomb residents based on a 1980 agreement between the city and county.
Both sides met in U.S. District Court on Monday in an ongoing effort to resolve that dispute.
Meanwhile, Morganroth said he plans to ask the judge in the case to assign a facilitator to help the neighbors and the Detroit utility work out a compromise.
If no deal can be reached, he said it could be a year before a court decision can be reached.
And for his clients, the attorney said, it's already been too long.
"They're living in those homes," he said, "but they don't want to be there."
Detroit News reporter Chrystal Johnson contributed to this story. You can reach Jim Lynch at (586) 468-0520 or