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‘Dead’ woman fights to prove she’s alive

PARIS: In a unique case, a 58-year-old French woman, who was wrongfully declared dead in a long-running dispute with a former employee, goes to court on Monday in the city of Lyon to try resurrect her existence.

Jeanne Pouchain has been trying to prove that she’s alive after a labour court allegedly acting on information by a former employee of hers declared her dead in November 2017.

She was wiped off from all official records. She lost her ID card, driver’s licence, bank account and health insurance.

Pouchain accused her former employee of fabricating the story of her death in a bid to win damages from her purported heirs, her husband and her son. The former employee had failed twice to sue Pouchain.

“It’s a crazy story. The plaintiff claimed that Mrs Pouchain was dead, without providing any proof, and everyone believed her. No-one checked,” Pouchain’s lawyer Sylvain Cormier told AFP.

The former employee filed a case against Pouchain after she was fired from Pourchain’s cleaning company following the loss of a big contract in 2000.

A labour tribunal in 2004 ordered Pouchain to pay the woman over 14,000 euros (Rs 12..42 lakh) in damages. However, since the case had been taken against her company and not Pouchain herself, the ruling was never enforced.

In 2009, the woman took a case against Pouchain directly, but that case was thrown out, only to return in 2016 before an appeals court. The court believed Pouchain to be dead and ordered her husband and son to pay the damages.

A lawyer for Pouchain’s former employee accused her of having a hand in her own demise. The lawyer said that Pouchain played dead to try to avoid litigation, by for example refusing to answer correspondence.

Pouchain has denied those accusations. She is seeking to have the court’s declaration of her death declared as fake. “State agencies tell me I am no longer dead, but that I am not yet alive. I’m in the making!” she said.

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