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 dead has deprived her of other critical facilities.
“I no longer exist,” Pouchain said by telephone. “I’m not doing anything …. I’m sitting on the porch writing.” She called the situation “macabre”.
Pouchain’s status as deceased is the result of a court ruling in Lyon in 2017 that considered her dead, even though no death certificate was presented. The decision came at the end of a legal dispute with an employee of Pouchain’s former cleaning company who sought compensation after losing his job 20 years ago.
But the original complaint in France’s Prudhomme labor court failed and fell on Pouchain, whose lawyer claims her firm had no responsibility for the dismissal. A series of lawsuits, rulings and appeals followed all the way to the Cassation Court, France’s highest court, which dismissed the case outside its domain, said Pouchain and her lawyer, Sylvain Cormier.
According to Pouchain and her lawyer, court errors with snowball ended with the 2017 decision of the Court of Appeal in Lyon that Pouchain was not among the living. The legal imbroglio is foreign because Pouchain claimed that neither she nor her relatives received a subpoena 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 lawyer, filed an unusual request last Monday to overturn the Lyon decision from the Court of Appeal due to a “serious error” by the judges. He said he had never before dealt with such a “crazy” case.
“At first, I had a hard time believing in my client,” he said.
Pouchain says she cannot forgive her former employee for her situation, but will not identify the woman. The former employee’s attorney did not respond to further requests for comment.
Cormier points the finger at the judges and their “extreme reluctance to repair their mistakes.”
“When a mistake is so huge, it’s hard to admit,” he said.
Pouchain remains stubbornly hopeful that her lawyer’s bid to overturn the verdict will succeed.
“This is my last chance to recover,” she said.