French woman Jeanne Pouchain ruled dead fights to be declared alive

French woman Jeanne Pouchain ruled dead fights to be declared alive
Photo credit: 9 News screengrab

A woman in France has been fighting for three years to prove to authorities that she is, in fact, alive after being declared dead in 2017.

Jeanne Pouchain, 58, can't get a drivers licence, health insurance, or open bank accounts because she no longer exists in the eyes of the government. She says she lives in constant fear and doesn't leave her house in the village of Saint Joseph, near Lyon.

"I no longer exist," she told the Associated Press.

"I don't do anything… I sit on the veranda and write."

Her status means she and her husband, who is her legal beneficiary along with her son, can't use their joint bank account.

Pouchain was declared dead in November 2017 after a lengthy legal dispute with an employee of her former cleaning company, who was seeking compensation years after losing their job.

In 2004, an industrial tribunal ordered Pouchain to pay the staff member about €14,000 (NZ$23,749) in damages after they were reportedly let go when her company lost a major contract. But since the case was against her company and not Pouchain, the ruling wasn't enforced.

The employee sued again in 2009 but the case was thrown out of court.

In 2016, an appeal court, believing Pouchain was dead, ordered her son and husband to pay the damages. The next year, the employee told the industrial tribunal her letters to her former boss were never answered and she had died.

This caused Pouchain to be removed from official records, meaning her drivers licence, bank account, health insurance, and all other documents were invalidated.

Her lawyer, Sylvian Cormier, says he couldn't believe she was declared dead even though a death certificate was never produced to the judge.

"The plaintiff claimed Mrs Pouchain was dead, without providing any proof and everyone believed her. Nobody checked." 

Cormier sought last week to invalidate the 2017 decision that resulted in Pouchain being declared dead, citing a "grave error" by the judges.

Pouchain hopes his attempts to overturn the judgement will succeed.

"It's my last chance to recover my life," she says.