A fire victim who has waited 30 years to hear his tragic story outlined to a judge was warned yesterday of the legal hurdles he faces in seeking damages. Yeung Shea-chun, 57, suffered horrendous burns during an accident at a knitting factory in 1970, the Court of First Instance heard. He spent 12 years in hospital and has undergone 30 operations, but so far has received no compensation from his employer. 'It is an extremely sad case. It is difficult to imagine a man who could have suffered more,' said barrister Michael Ozorio SC. Mr Yeung is seeking damages from the Legal Aid Department, which he accuses of negligently failing to institute action against his boss within the legal time limit. An award of $13,933 in employees' compensation, an additional means of securing payment, was granted by the District Court in 1972. But the money could not be obtained from his employer, Ho Cheuk, who spent 21 days in jail for non-payment. Mr Yeung says the Legal Aid Department did not inform him of the situation until 21 years later. By that time, it was too late to bring a separate common law action for damages against Mr Ho. Mr Ozorio, for Mr Yeung, told the judge the victim suffered burns to 34 per cent of his body on March 31, 1970, when a paraffin stove caught fire at the Ho Cheuk Weaving and Knitting Factory where he worked. He remained in hospital until 1982 when he was allowed out for home leave, usually one or two days at a time, the court heard. During 1984 and 1989, Mr Yeung underwent further operations. 'Because of the horrendous burns he was incapacitated for many years,' said Mr Ozorio. He was left with terrible scars and had to spend one or two hours each day undergoing treatment for ulcers on his legs. Mr Yeung married in 1984 and his wife gave birth to a son who is now 15 years old. But she died last year and Mr Yeung now lives on public assistance. 'It makes for an extremely tragic story,' said Mr Ozorio. Mr Justice William Waung Sik-ying expressed sympathy for the victim, but warned that he may not succeed with his claim. 'We cannot just throw away the rule book because he is in a poor condition. The rules have to be complied with,' said the judge. A particular hurdle faced by Mr Yeung was that even if a damages action had been brought against Mr Ho within the permitted time, the employer may not have had any money which could have been recovered. If this was the case, Mr Yeung would have suffered no loss, even if there had been negligence by the Legal Aid Department. 'It is better to put an early end to this agony rather than raise false hopes for him,' said the judge. 'At the moment, I am extremely pessimistic as to his prospects.' Mr Justice Waung adjourned the case until next month. Mr Ozorio and his team are providing their services to Mr Yeung free of charge.