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No 9-11 Compensation for Flight Attendant

November 27, 2003

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ A flight attendant who would have died in the Sept. 11 attacks if she hadn’t traded shifts with a co-worker may not receive workers compensation for emotional distress, a state appellate court ruled.

Kim Stroka claimed that she was too distraught to work after her colleague died on United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked shortly after taking off from Newark Liberty International Airport en route to San Francisco. It crashed in a field in Pennsylvania, killing everyone on board.

Stroka, of Howell, had taken that day off without pay to care for her daughter.

She said she soon had difficulty eating and sleeping and could not return to work, and was treated by a psychologist for post-traumatic stress disorder.

A workers’ compensation judge awarded her medical and disability payments but that was overturned Wednesday by the three-judge state appellate court.

The panel ruled that Stroka, 43, is not entitled to the award because ``nothing happened while she was working which led to her current condition.″ The ruling was based on a 1979 measure that made it harder for workers to collect money for injuries that occur outside the workplace.

The judges said that if Stroka were allowed to keep the award, ``off-duty police officers, firefighters and others whose jobs are inherently risky could seek compensation benefits when a fellow employee was injured or killed while taking that employee’s place.″

A lawyer for United, Christopher Saracino, said the company sympathizes with Stroka and anyone else affected by the attacks. He said Stroka probably could have sought permanent partial disability benefits if doctors had agreed that she could never fly again.