Woman ruled dead in 2017 fights to be declared alive

Pouchain’s status has prevented her and her husband, who is her legal beneficiary along with her son, from using their joint bank account. Being declared deceased has deprived her of other critical amenities.

“I no longer exist,” Pouchain said by telephone. “I don’t do anything….I sit on the veranda and write.” She called the situation “macabre.”

Pouchain’s status as deceased is the result of a 2017 Lyon court decision that deemed her dead even though no death certificate was produced. The decision came at the end of a legal dispute with an employee of Pouchain’s former cleaning company, who was seeking compensation after losing her job 20 years ago.

But the initial complaint in France’s Prudhomme workers’ court misfired, falling on Pouchain, whose lawyer claims her company had no responsibility for the dismissal. A series of legal proceedings, decisions and appeals followed, all the way to the Court of Cassation, France’s highest court, which dismissed the case as outside its domain, Pouchain and her lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, said.

According to Pouchain and her attorney, snowballing judicial errors ended with the 2017 ruling by the Appeals Court of Lyon that Pouchain was not among the living. The legal imbroglio is all the stranger because, Pouchain contended, neither she nor her relatives received a summons for the hearing.

Pouchain’s husband and son were left with an order to pay 14,000 euros ($17,000) to the former employee.

Cormier, her attorney, filed an unusual motion last Monday to invalidate the 2017 decision by the Lyon appeals court due to a “grave error” by the judges. He said he has never before dealt with such a “crazy” case.

“At first, I had a hard time believing my client,” he said.

Pouchain says she can’t forgive her ex-employee for her plight but won’t identify the woman. The former employee’s lawyer did not respond to several requests for comment.

Cormier points the finger at the judges and their “extreme reticence to repair their error.”

“When an error is so enormous, it’s hard to admit,” he said.

Pouchain remains stubbornly hopeful that her attorney’s bid to overturn the judgement will succeed.

“It’s my last chance to recover my life,” she said.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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