Disabled civil servant takes compensation battle to court

Lands Department official suspects work row caused stroke that left him wheelchair-bound

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 3:54am

When Paul Wong Hung-chun went to work on August 19, 2010, he could not have guessed he might have to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Or find himself in court, this week, seeking financial compensation.

Wong, 52, a senior executive officer with the Lands Department, collapsed that day during a heated argument in a meeting. He had suffered a stroke.

By the time he returned to work the following June, in a wheelchair, he was a shadow of his former healthy self. "I can't spread the fingers of my left hand freely, and there are problems with the tendons in my left leg," he said in a recent interview.

"I can't control my face on the left side. I can barely walk for more than a few steps and so I need to use a wheelchair."

Wong sought advice from the Lands Department about his eligibility for compensation under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance. It passed his case to the Labour Department. The Labour Department ruled there was not enough evidence to prove his stroke was related to his collapse during the meeting.

Now he has filed a lawsuit against the Lands Department, and the Wan Chai District Court will hear the case tomorrow.

"I feel a bit helpless, but I will fight for [my rights]," Wong said.

His collapse occurred under unusual circumstances. His supervisor had told him to help out during a meeting in which a mentally unstable clerical assistant was going to receive a work assessment. The situation turned nasty when the clerk became angry, for reasons that Wong doesn't understand.

"The clerk insisted he would not sign the appraisal form," Wong said. "Then there was a verbal conflict between us and I suddenly felt as if an electric wave passed through my face. I couldn't control my arms and legs and I fell down."

Rushed to Ruttonjee Hospital, Wong was diagnosed with a brain haemorrhage, which he attributes to the argument.

Under the Employees' Compensation Ordinance, if there is any chance an injury may be work-related, the employer is supposed to talk to the victim and witnesses about what happened.

"The Lands Department did not interview me about this," Wong said.

Spokesmen for the Lands and Labour departments declined to comment on the case because court proceedings are pending.