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Lost in litigation



Litigants should be wary of protracted litigation. It’s not only costly and time consuming but can be “deadly.” A Frenchwoman found this out after battling a wrongful dismissal suit filed by her former employee.

It was in 2000 when Jeanne Pouchain’s cleaning business lost a big client and was forced to lay off some workers. One of the retrenched employees filed an illegal dismissal suit seeking damage from Pouchain’s company.

The company lost the case in 2004 when a labor court ruled that it had to pay the complainant more than 14,000 euros ($17,000) in damages. But Pouchain, 58, avoided paying the damage on the technicality that the tribunal’s order was directed at the company and not her.

In 2009, the plaintiff directly sued Pouchain, but that case was thrown out. The complainant went back to court suing Pouchain’s husband and son in a bid to exact payment from them instead. To make the new suit proceed required Pouchain to be dead, so the plaintiff’s counsel made the court believe so by citing the absence of correspondence from the latter. No one bothered to verify the information from the lawyer.

By 2016, the new case was already before an appeals court, which ruled in favor of the plaintiff. The following year, Pouchain’s husband and son were ordered to pay the damage.

It was a double whammy for Pouchain as her “death” led to the deletion of her official records. She lost her ID card, driver’s license, bank account and health insurance.

Ironically, Pouchain is not yet finished dealing with the court even with the end of the dismissal suit after 20 years of litigation. She went to a Lyon court on Monday to prove that she is alive and hopefully resurrect her existence.