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Phillip Morris Sued For Free Cigarettes

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A former Philip Morris employee filed a federal lawsuit against the tobacco company, saying he should continue receiving two cartons of cigarettes each month as part of a settlement reached almost 30 years ago, The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal.

Steven Thrasher, 50, said he received the free cigarettes following a settlement for being shot in October 1974 by a supervisor at a Philip Morris plant in Louisville. He stopped getting the cartons in 2001, and is alleging a breach of contract in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in July, the newspaper reported.

Thrasher is a paraplegic who said he doesn't smoke but gives the cigarettes to relatives.
Philip Morris USA, based in Richmond, Va., said it cut off the free cigarettes to Thrasher and other former employees after the national tobacco settlement in 1998, which prohibited the promotion of tobacco products, including the distribution of free samples.

Thrasher's 1976 settlement with Philip Morris resolved a civil lawsuit and a workers' compensation claim. His supervisor, Wilford Payne, pleaded guilty to malicious shooting and wounding in 1977 and received probation, and the incident left Thrasher in a wheelchair, living on disability payments, according to newspaper.

In 2000, Thrasher sued the company under a federal pension law, saying he was entitled to a variety of company benefits including the two cartons per month. The U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II dismissed by the lawsuit.

In the new lawsuit, Thrasher is seeking $25,000 -- the value of the cigarette cartons for the rest of his life -- and $1 million in punitive damages.
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