Reports of a French woman’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Make no mistake, Jeanne Pouchain is officially dead.
The problem is, she’s literally not.
And for three years, she’s been trying to prove that.
The 58-year old woman from St. Joseph, in the Loire region, says she lives in fear, afraid to leave her house. Pouchain’s “deceased” status prevents her from accessing a joint bank account she keeps with her husband. And unpaid debts have begun to pile up. Authorities have already seized her car and she’s afraid the family furniture will be next to go.
Pouchain, who calls her situation “macabre” says she doesn’t do anything adding “I no longer exist.”
In 2017, a Lyon court decision that deemed her not among the living despite the lack of a death certificate, resulted in her status of “deceased.” This was after a legal dispute with an employee at Pouchain’s former business - a cleaning company - who was suing for compensation after being dismissed from her job two decades ago.
Pouchain’s lawyer argued her company had no responsibility for the dismissal. The case eventually made its way to France’s highest court - the Court of Cassation - which dismissed it. But a series of judicial errors ended in 2017 with the ruling by the Appeals Court of Lyon that Pouchain was declared “deceased.”
This left Pouchain’s husband and son liable for 14,000 euros ($17,000) to the former employee. Pouchain says she never even received a summons for the hearing.
Sylvain Cormier is Pouchain’s legal counsel who recently filed a motion to invalidate the 2017 decision due to “grave error” by the judges. Cormier blames the judges and their “extreme reticence to repair their error” adding “When an error is so enormous, it’s hard to admit.”