In the flesh, Jeanne Pouchain appears very much alive. To convince the French authorities is another matter.
After being declared dead by a court, Pouchain spent three years trying to officially get resuscitated.
The 58-year-old woman, from Saint-Joseph, near Lyon, no longer exists in the eyes of the French administration since 2017, after a long-standing dispute involving a former employee of her cleaning company.
“I went to see a lawyer who told me this would be resolved quickly, as I had been to my doctor who certified that I was still alive. But because there had been a [legal] decision, that was not enough, ”Pouchain told local reporters.
His lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, was also surprised at his very exaggerated death. “It’s a crazy story. I couldn’t believe it. I never thought a judge would declare someone dead without a certificate. But the complainant claimed Ms Pouchain was dead, without providing any evidence and everyone believed her. Nobody checked, ”he told AFP.
The decision of the Lyon Court of Appeal to no longer declare Pouchain came in November 2017 after more than a decade of legal battles with a disgruntled former employee.
A 2004 labor court ordered Pouchain to pay the former staff member – who should have quit her job when Pouchain’s company lost a major contract – around € 14,000 in damages. The case being directed against his company and not against Pouchain personally, the decision was never applied. In 2009, the employee sued again but the case was dismissed out of court.
In 2016, believing Pouchain dead, an appeal court ordered her son and her husband to pay damages. The following year, the employee informed the labor tribunal that her letters to her former boss went unanswered and that she died. Pouchain was removed from official records, canceling his identity card, driver’s license, bank account, health insurance, and other official documents needed to prove his existence.
As her lawyer sought to have her officially resuscitated this week, Pouchain accused the former employee of inventing her disappearance in order to obtain damages from her heirs. The employee’s lawyer replied that Pouchain was the author of her own disappearance and played dead to avoid paying damages, accusations she denied.
“I have no identity papers, no health insurance, I cannot prove to the banks that I am alive… I am nothing,” Pouchain said.
“It’s time for someone to say ‘stop’. If I don’t fight, no one will fight for me. My husband’s grandmother is 102… she’s been through a lot, including war, but she says she’s never suffered anything as hard as me.