Vaughn Reed, 44, filed for bankruptcy June 24 after losing a job with an auto industry supplier. DTE Energy Co. was notified a day later electronically, The Detroit News reported, but the notification listed a different address than the house where Reed and his family were staying.
According to court documents, such a filing generally "automatically stays certain collection and other actions against the debtor and the debtor's property."
DTE said the shut-off happened because of years of being behind on bills and after the utility failed to reach the family more than a dozen times.
"We didn't get a notification that that's the address," said DTE spokeswoman Eileen Dixon. "The address is the primary component used in that process. This just underscores how important it is that people let us know when people are in trouble."
The utility was contacted by the family about the bankruptcy after the shut-off, and power was to be restored the day after it was shut off. The four died early that day after being overcome by fumes from a generator in the basement.
Officials said the generator was being used to power two air conditioners, but the family said it also was being used to power medical equipment related to asthma treatments for one of the children.
The children's mother, Marquetta Owens, 36, was the lone survivor. She said Reed's mother lives at the address that was listed in the notification from U.S. Bankruptcy Court to the utility.