Stephanie Pullman's Family 'Reaches Agreement' With APS

In June, protesters gather over the death of APS customer Stephanie Pullman. The utility cut her power on a 107-degree day last September.
In June, protesters gather over the death of APS customer Stephanie Pullman. The utility cut her power on a 107-degree day last September. Elizabeth Whitman
The family of Stephanie Pullman, the 72-year-old woman who died in her Sun City home last September after Arizona Public Service cut off her electricity on a 107-degree day, has reached an agreement with the utility, a lawyer for the family said Tuesday.

The news came in a sparse filing submitted to the Arizona Corporation Commission, which contained no details about the nature of the agreement.

In a brief statement, the family said that it "requests that their privacy be respected by all."

An attorney for the family, John Brewer, added, "We hope that this statement will conclude this matter and any further inquiries regarding the same."

The family has not responded to recent emails and calls from Phoenix New Times that were made before this announcement.

In June, one of Pullman's daughters, Jeanine Smith, shared with New Times the details of her mother's death and the pain and fury that she and her siblings endured as they uncovered the circumstances of her final days and learned that APS had cut off the electricity to Pullman's two-bedroom house over $51 owed.

Stephanie Pullman
Family of Stephanie Pullman
The coroner's report said that heat was a contributing factor in her death.

Despite the utility's claims that it issues multiple warnings to customers before disconnecting them, Smith never found the door hangings that APS professed to have sent. Nor did her mother's phone records indicate that APS had called to warn her.

The only warnings came from bills. Records from the Corporation Commission showed that Pullman had struggled in the year before her death to pay her APS bills, some of which also warned of impending shutoffs, which were never carried out. 

Pullman, who retired at age 65 from her work at a hospital, lived on less than $1,000 a month in Social Security. Her other daughter, Chris Hotes, and Smith frequently helped pay her bills, including for phone and internet.

The week before Pullman's electricity was disconnected, Hotes, had sent a check to her mother to help pay for the water bill.

"She only said she needed money for her water bill," Smith said in June. "She said nothing about an electric bill."

Pullman was very independent, Smith said, but she asked for help when she needed it.

“Honestly, I don’t think she knew that it was going to be shut off," Smith added. "She always called and asked us.”

The fact that APS and Pullman's family reached the agreement announced Tuesday represents a change from sentiments that Smith expressed earlier in the summer.

After her mother died, Smith filed a complaint with the Arizona Corporation Commission and made numerous calls to APS, she said. She described both entities as unresponsive, saying that the complaint to the Corporation Commission was "a joke."

“I told APS, ‘You ended my mom’s life for $51.’ And you destroyed this family,” Smith recalled in June. The utility's response was, If you’re ever in trouble, you can call and notify us, she said.

When New Times told Smith that APS, in response to New Times' own queries, said it planned to reach out to Smith, she responded, "I don't want to speak to them. There's nothing they can do or say to change it."

Nevertheless, she wanted her mother's story to become public to spur policy change — which it has, with the Corporation Commission barring summer shutoffs, investigating utilities' disconnect policies, and, soon, demanding testimony from outgoing APS CEO Don Brandt.

"I want this story out," Smith said.
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Elizabeth Whitman was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from March 2019 to April 2020.