Category Archives: Cour de Cassation

Taking Responsibility

Taking responsibility is not usually difficult, although it is sometimes time-consuming, and I would think we have all thought at some time or other, ‘I wish I didn’t have to spend my life thinking of things I must do, rather than things I would like to do!’ Ensuring our grandson receives an education that fits his needs is our responsibility, ie the responsibility of the adults in our small family unit. Because our lifestyle does not allow for formal education, that responsibility falls on my shoulders, fairly and squarely. It’s no hardship, he is a gem who soaks up learning like a sponge, and I never really envisaged retiring from teaching, anyway!

So, on Monday 1st October, Tom and I travelled to Aurillac to do what we had to do to ensure grandson’s ‘home education’ could legally continue for yet another year. During our journey through and along the perimeters of the wonderful, lush green craters of long since exploded, and still sleeping, volcanoes, we talked about our next steps to find out if we could continue to seek justice to atone for the vice caché. It seems to us that our (third) avocat and our specialist Cour de Cassation avocat are not interested in making sure we know what’s happening with our Case. In fact, as I commented to Tom, I believe we could all pop our clogs and nobody within the judicial system would be any the wiser or interested!

We decided to call on the legal expertise of an old friend in Aurillac, a French barrister, Maitre C. We were out of luck on the Monday, but Maitre C’s lovely wife asked us to return during the Tuesday afternoon, and we did.

Now, that was a revelation!

It appears that our Case will continue because Napoleon made provision for the disappearance of spouses when the law has not fully run its course. Simply, Madame T must complete the proceedings on her own. If Madame T does not survive the long drawn-out processes, her offspring must take up the slack, followed by her grandchildren if necessary! Does the same apply for the other foot’s boot, ie if Tom and I don’t live long enough to witness the final resolution? Yes.

So, there you go, it really doesn’t do to get on the wrong side of Napoleon’s laws, whether you are perpetrator or victim!

Although Tom was visibly tired, driving takes its toll these days, he wanted us to go for a drink in our village bar-tabac, to celebrate my 63rd birthday. The Bar-Tabac-Presse is only two doors down from our house – moving in the direction that’s away from the Church, of course! As we parked outside the house, a couple of our friends were heading toward the bar-tabac and they joined us. We joined a larger group inside the bar-tabac and updated everybody about the day’s events. One of them reported to us what he had been told by one of our sellers’ sons, ie that if Madame T had passed away, rather than her husband, the family would have offered to settle out of Court. But, as things stand, the matriarch calls the shots!

Can we move back into our house that’s not a home?

No. The hairdresser left too much damage in her rush to remove fixtures and fittings, none of which can be repaired because Napoleon decreed that ‘….it would not be in the public’s best interests for repairs to be carried out on a property at the centre of dispute…’! Some of us take responsibility, some of us don’t.

Were we surprised? What do you think?


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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – D’oh!

Tom and I arrived at the house just before 6.30pm on Saturday 29th September. We had both enjoyed returning to the sheer beauty of the Puy de Dome on our left and the long ridge of Puy Mary to our right. We really do miss the mountains of the Auvergne when we’re traipsing around France!

Mademoiselle S, the hairdresser, was still in the shop section of our house that’s not a home. The small square window-panes were steamed up and we couldn’t see the shop interior. It was all a bit Dickensian! Tom and I looked at each other and we could almost read each other’s thoughts. Ah well, it was always going to be too good to be true!

Tom pushed open the front door to the house. That was easy – the entire locking device had been broken, no key-turning necessary, just a gentle push and the door swings inward every time. That was a brand new, double-glazed, front door, to match the brand new double-glazed windows, fitted in November 2007 and funded by us. The hand-crafted door and windows had been ordered by us the week before we completed the property purchase. What could go wrong at that stage? Plenty, as it happens! Eventually, we had discovered that we couldn’t cancel the order because we had signed the devis. Oh la la, one must not renege on a signed devis!

We plonked our rucksacks in the first floor apartment lounge and headed for a welcome cuppa made by our friend and neighbour, Madame Z, she lives three doors away. Sipping steaming mugs of English tea, we listened as Madame Z told us the male half of our sellers, Monsieur T, had passed away. Tom and I were genuinely saddened by the news, but we were not at all surprised. We have never considered Monsieur T to have been responsible for the fraud. He was clearly suffering with dementia when we all met in the notaire’s office for the final signing. At one point, I stopped the notaire reading the documents to us and asked Monsieur F, the Immobilier, if the proceedings were legal. He translated my concerns to the notaire and she responded so quickly that I couldn’t understand what she had said. Monsieur F turned to Tom and me and told us it was perfectly legal, he added, “In France, this is normal.”

Well, the news saddened us, but the possible implications worried us! We wondered if that might be the end of our quest for justice. We also wondered why neither Courts nor avocats had informed us. After three days in the village, no fewer than seven people from seven different families had told us Monsieur T had passed away just under one month ago. Surely, the avocats will have been informed?

An hour later we headed back to the house. The shop windows had cleared of condensation and we could see the shop was empty – apart from a large heap of hair cuttings and dust in a single pile in one corner. We tried to open the door, it was locked. So, we went inside the main door to the house and we were able to open the internal door to the shop.

I’ll try to explain the layout of the house, it’s a little like a maze! The ground floor comprises two large town-house style garages, side by side but divided by a wall. To the left of the garages is the main house entrance into a long hall that stretches through the building, right to the back door. On the left side of the hall are two good-sized rooms, ie the hairdresser’s shop, accessed by an internal door to the front room of the shop. At the far end of the hall, on the right, is the door to the steps that lead down to three cellars. Outside the back door there’s a large yard that houses several outbuildings. Originally, we planned for those outbuildings – most of them are derelict – to be demolished to make way for our ‘green space’, a garden. One of the outbuildings contains a wc, a hand-basin, a shower unit, and space for a washing-machine and tumble-drier. Electricity and running water are supplied to that outbuilding. We had planned to keep that section and use it as a utility room.

On the first floor of the house, there’s a large apartment with two double bedrooms, kitchen, lounge and bathroom. The second floor contains a second large apartment with one double bedroom, kitchen, lounge and bathroom; Monsieur C’s apartment is also on the second floor, a bed-sitting room, kitchen and bathroom.

A loft extension would have given us another apartment with three double bedrooms, lounge, kitchen and bathroom. Although, the open plan aspect would have brought all the apartments together to create one family home.

Lots of space for our big family! Also a major point for the Courts to consider, ie the architect’s main renovation Plans are dated April 2007, before any purchase documents were signed. Copies were given to the Immobilier, to our sellers, and to the notaire. Everybody was made aware of our plans – those plans did not include two locataires, those plans were created with the letter of the law firmly understood, the house was for sole use and enjoyment by Tom and me, and our family, and that was written in the pre-purchase/sale Contract.

Back to the hairdresser! She had gone! However, she returned on Sunday morning, accompanied by her cleaner, and we retrieved one set of the keys to the building. But, her cleaner did not return the spare set of keys that we know she has in her possession, the keys that she doesn’t know that we know she has in her possession!

Tom changed the locks during Sunday afternoon! Yes, we’re paranoid!


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Two Plus Two Equals Five!

During the past month, Tom and I have wished we were both at least twenty years younger! That’s a first for both of us, we are normally quite content with our ages, life experience, mental and physical capacity, achievements, and our levels of life skills learning and knowledge. So, why the change? It’s simple, we both wish we could walk further than we can, carrying our home on our backs! When our ‘old girl’, aka our long-suffering Citroen Picasso Xsara, flipped her clutch, she left us in a real quandary. Scrap her and walk, or have her repaired and break the Bank to pay for the repairs? We chose the latter because we truly can’t manage without her. She has carried the four of us over 130,000 kilometres during the past four years; Tom and I can’t do that sort of ‘motoring’ on our aging ‘pins’. Simples!

So, we were already somewhat stressed and distressed (and broke!) when we travelled to Champagnac and Mauriac to collect documents from our friend, Madame ZC, and from l’Huissier. We knew the documents would be relevant to the illegal tenant hairdresser’s written Notice to quit our house that can’t be our home, following intervention by the Cadastre (Department Land Registry). But, our immediate concerns were about how Monsieur C might be responding, or reacting! As things turned out, we didn’t need to concern ourselves about Monsieur C, he is definitely a happy bunny! More about that next time.

The documents we received were a revelation! Confirmed within the text, Tom and I were definitely stitched up on 6 July 2007 by the female half of our sellers, and, we strongly suspect she wasn’t on her own! On that day, according to the notaire’s statement, she acted on notification received some time earlier (no date given) from Madame T that Tom and I had agreed to allow the hairdresser to sell on her Rental Lease. Now, why the notaire didn’t demand documentary verification, we have no idea! But, the fact of the matter is that she didn’t demand such evidence. Had she done so, she would have had no doubt that we hadn’t agreed, because we knew nothing about it, and there is no documentary evidence because Tom and I didn’t sign any such document!

On 6 July 2007, several weeks after we signed the compromis (‘promise to buy’ pre-Contract), and three weeks before our purchase was completed, Madame T and the notaire completed their own transaction, and they effectively landed my menfolk and me in the judicial mire that is the French legal system where the hairdresser is involved! Although, of course, Madame T already knew at the time that she was defrauding us by withholding evidence of Monsieur C’s tenancy!

Tom and I now believe the 6 July transaction was the reason why the notaire withheld €2000+ from our sellers on the day of completion. After all financial business was concluded on that day, Madame T looked at her cheque and announced that the cheque was ‘more than €2000 short’. I understood what she said and I looked at the notaire – our Immobilier was trying to hurry us out of the office. The notaire’s face reddened and she told Madame T to telephone her later at her office. Well, that would not ring bells if Tom and I hadn’t been informed, later the same day, that the notaire apparently left her office to go off on holiday immediately after we all left her office!

Strange? Not if the notaire had deducted €2000+ for other services rendered during the sale/purchase proceedings!

The documents contain a number of peculiarities and ambiguities. We know a commercial Tenancy Lease is for a period of 9 years; a residential Tenancy Lease is for 3 years. The original hairdresser’s contract started in December 1998, according to the copy of the Attestation we were given. Therefore, her tenancy period was due to expire on 31 December 2007; she confirmed to us that she had not applied to renew for a further period of nine years because she was closing down to concentrate on extending and raising her family. We wished her good luck, and everything was confirmed in writing between us and the Immo. He confirmed that the hairdresser’s tenancy period had not been extended beyond December 2007. That was further verified in the pre-Contract, and it states that we would have ‘sole use and enjoyment’ of the property.

Of course, that was never going to happen, Monsieur C was skulking in the shadows. But, we were absolutely shattered when Mademoiselle S suddenly appeared in November 2007, and we were informed that she would be with us for nine years!

However, according to the documents handed to us by l’Huissier, the notaire confirms that Mademoiselle S was given a ‘three years commercial Tenancy Lease’, and that it would run from when the previous contract ‘expired in October 2008’. Confused? No more than we are!

Even if we’re wrong about the December 2007 date (we know we’re not wrong, but never mind that!), a 3 years contract would expire in 2011 if it began in 2008. In that case, why is Mademoiselle S still running her business now, in April 2012?

According to l’Huissier, nobody was able to give Notice to quit to the hairdresser until the cadastre intervened, so she probably just stayed put! Well, ok, this is France, so that’s feasible. But, also according to l’Huissier, because Tom and I didn’t sign any documents giving permission for the commercial Lease to be sold by the original hairdresser to Mademoiselle S, the notaire had signed in our absence, as we were ‘in default’!

We left Champagnac thoroughly confused, fed up, sick to our hearts, and that was definitely my lowest ebb since this whole fiasco started. Thankfully, Tom was in British Bulldog mode, and by the time we joined our lads I was over the worst of my ‘blues’!

Today, copies of all documents were posted to the Cour de Cassation, and to the ECHR. Tomorrow is another day!



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Whoops! Are We Back On The Roller-coaster?

After the exhilaration of the past couple of days, family and I had to get our feet back on the ground and our heads back on our shoulders, the reality is that we still have a long way to go. We’re nowhere near getting out of la forêt, yet! We must still face the daunting experience of our Case being judged at the Cour de Cassation in Paris.

So, today, in response to many questions that I have been asked by folks living all around the world, I’m going to ‘chat’ about potential next steps. I won’t go into the entire workings of the Cour de Cassation, I’m certain that would be boring to read, and I know it would be a very cumbersome post for me to write! The information I will give is based on data sent to me by various legally and part-legally qualified professionals, one of whom actually works within the austere confines of the Cour de Cassation, on my own research, and on verification of my own and others’ research.

How much information have I received from four (to date) avocats, including our specialist Cour de Cassation avocat? None, absolutely zilch!

The Cour de Cassation is the highest Appeal Court in France, it’s the Supreme Court. To get a Case to the Supreme Court, it must first be heard in one of the Tribunaux d’Instance local Courts, or in one of the Tribuneaux de Grande l’Instance Courts. The latter depends on the severity and the monetary value of the dispute. Our Case was initially heard in the Grande l’Instance Tribunal in Aurillac (15).

The history of the French Cour de Cassation goes back to the French Revolution, it was established by the Act of 27 November 1790. But, the Court’s workings are still largely based, in principle, on the ancient Roman judicial proceedings.

Within the Court, there are six main sections in which a Case can be judged, these sections are as follows: Commercial, Labour, Civil, Criminal 1, Criminal 2, and the Chambre de Requetes – the last gives judgement on whether or not a Case is admissible for Appeal at the Supreme Court. During my conversation with Maitre at l’Huissier’s office in Mauriac, it emerged that our house Case has got through the Chambre de Requetes, and that is why we now have some action! Although, we have not received written confirmation, that might be one of the documents waiting for us at l’Huissier’s office, or at the house. We will find out towards the end of April.

Our house Case was referred to the Civil section of the Cour de Cassation, but a number of professionals have commented, during the past 2 years, that it should be heard by judges in the Criminal 2 section, because our sellers’ fraud has already been proved. Those professionals might well be correct!

If the Claimant fails to win in one of the lower Courts, an Appeal can be lodged in the Region’s Tribunal d’Appel; ours was Appealed at Riom in the Puy-de-Dome (63).

Failure to win the regional Appeal can result in a further, final Appeal to the Cour de Cassation, Paris. The judges in the Supreme Court do not judge on the merits of the Case, they are in situ to decide whether or not French laws have been correctly interpreted during the previous Hearings.

What sort of result may be seen coming out of the Cour de Cassation where our Case is concerned? Well, the previous Appeal decision can be upheld, and in that case, there will be no further French legal action, it would be all over as far as the French judiciary are concerned! Or, the previous Appeal Court decision can be quashed, and the Case can be returned to the Appeal Court in Riom for further consideration and a fresh Judgement. The Cour de Cassation might decide to quash the previous Appeal Court’s decision and order that there will be no further Appeal, the Cour de Cassation decisions about the Case will then be final.

Our Case will be heard by a panel of at least 5 judges, presided over by the Cour de Cassation President, or, a possibility, the most senior Cour de Cassation Judge.

There are a number of potential results.

The judges can decide that our Case is a straight forward vice caché and order the property to be returned to Monsieur and Madame T, with a full refund to us, and with no leave given for the couple to Appeal. On average, it would take 4 – 6 months for the final resolution to be attained, and the judges decision must first be endorsed by the Court President.

The judges can decide that, on grounds of the vice caché having been proved at Riom, the Case must be returned to the Riom Appeal Court for further consideration and a fresh judgement. That would delay the final resolution by up to a year.

The judges could rule that we, Tom and I, are partially responsible for the vice caché, due to whatever reasons they decide on the day. In that case, they could refer the Case back to the Riom Appeal Court for further considerations and a fresh judgement.

The judges could rule that our vice caché claim has been proved, but give Monsieur and Madame T leave to Appeal. That could result in us waiting for an Appeal to be lodged by our sellers, and the Case could drag on for a further period of one to possibly up to three more years.

Our fervent hope is that the Cour de Cassation judges find fully in our favour, with no right of Appeal to our sellers, and with an order that a total resolution must be attained within 28 days.Such a Judgement is rare, but it does happen, and it would need to be endorsed by the Court President.

If we are lucky enough to receive the justice for which we fervently hope, our sellers could plead poverty and state that they’re unable to refund our money! In that event, the Cour de Cassation judges can order them to give us their own home in return for taking repossession of our house that’s not a home, and they would need to live in the latter! Or, the judges could order that property and possessions, belonging to our sellers, must be auctioned and the proceedings used to refund us. That Judgement would need to be endorsed by the Court President.

According to a very knowledgeable source, our sellers are most likely to plead that they have shared their property and possessions among their children and grandchildren! In that case, the judges can order those items to be seized by l’Huissier, assisted by Gendarmes, and the property and possessions to be auctioned, with the proceedings used to refund us. Again, such a Judgement would need to be endorsed by the Court President.

So, there are many possibilities! At the end of it all, will we recoup all of our losses? Very possibly not! But, that’s another story!


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What Does The Future Hold?

Blogging our experiences has caused us grief, there’s no doubt in my mind about that! Quite simply, living the experiences put us on a roller-coaster that hadn’t stopped since July 2007. Being able to take time out from that constant movement during the past eight weeks gave us a false sense of security. My menfolk and I are tired, so very tired, and our emotions are raw. If that reads as dramatic or weak, I make no apology, we had long forgotten how to feel angry, disappointed, frustrated, betrayed and defrauded. All those emotions have returned, in force since I started writing this blog. But, we are well aware that we must keep going, there’s no way back, that’s reality.

On Wednesday this week, we ‘celebrated’ 5 years of living in France. But, we didn’t really celebrate, we just spent time recalling events of the past five years! Wednesday was a very solemn day in this household! I think our recent recollections, for this blog, had dragged all our emotions to the surface, emotions that we have constantly strived to keep under lock and key, metaphorically speaking.

So, on Thursday, to get us back on track, to buoy up our spirits without setting ourselves up for a fall, we talked about our future. Obviously, our plans are subject to that old adage, all things being equal!

We are fully aware that even an emphatic Cour de Cassation judgement in our favour will not immediately have a practical effect on our lives. Although our sellers would not be able to appeal the Court’s decision, they could use ‘accepted’ delaying tactics for up to six months, and force us to return to the Appeal Court to obtain legal enforcement. We firmly believe our sellers would do that. The only way that would be scuppered by the Cour de Cassation is if the Judge orders all arrangements to be finalised within 28 days. Such an Order can’t be undermined in any way, within the French justice system, that would be the final word. However, 28 days Orders are extremely rare in the French Supreme Court!

If we are awarded that 28 days Order, our sellers could then state that they have bequeathed all their assets to family members; our sellers are, like Tom and me, over State retirement age, they may already have done that, hoping to avoid giving us back our money! In that event, we would need to take our Case back to the Cour de Cassation for further consideration and judgement! The Judge could then place an Order on the family members to pay us. Although, that’s not likely to happen! Most likely, the Judge would make an Order for the sellers’ bequeathed assets to be sold by auction, and for us to be paid out of the profit. That would take time, estimated at 3 to 5 months.

Prior to bringing the lawsuit to the first Tribunal, our (then) avocat, Monsieur MA, ran checks to ensure our sellers had the funds or assets to use for settling repayment to us. The outcomes of those checks revealed that our sellers were property €millionaires. Had they not been in a position to refund us for the house purchase, it would not have been in our best interests to bring the lawsuit. We were assured by Monsieur MA that our sellers had the assets, even if not the ready funds, to refund us for the fraudulent sale.

Yet another aspect for us to consider is the fact that the Courts now know our sellers also defrauded the State, through tax evasion. It is possible that the more recent charges will take precedence over our Case. We have no way of knowing if the tax evasion charges are being dealt with even as we wait for a Cour de Cassation hearing date. If the tax evasion Case is under way, we may yet discover that the State will be paid before us!

But, all things being equal, we plan to purchase building land in France, and to have a property built, a ‘pukka  log cabin’, in our grandson’s words!


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A Reflection On The Appeal

Family and I have met so many wonderful people during our hobo years in France, some are now counted as being among our closest friends. Without doubt, one close friend is a super gentleman named Pete, and his family of pets that consists of Alf the Hound, and Misty and Arry, ie two cats that remind me of T.S. Eliot’s Jennyanydots (Misty) and Skimbleshanks (Arry)! After leaving Janet and Mark’s camping site in the Deux-Sevres, we spent the next six weeks with Pete’s pets in a beautiful medieval village in the Tarn-et-Garonne, during November and well into December 2011.

Sadly, Tom’s health had been deteriorating for several weeks; one chest infection after another had rendered him virtually unable to walk and breathe simultaneously. Emphysema is an insidious disease that is included in a group of lung diseases known collectively as C.O.P.D., Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (or Disease). So, after a visit to the local village doctor and the dreaded diagnosis of pneumonia, Tom was confined to the house and loaded up with antibiotics, steroids, nebules for his nebuliser, and inhalers. To say we were extremely worried about him is an understatement. The bottom line is that family and I seriously thought Tom would not survive that dreadful infection.

Here, and with all honesty, I will say this, for the first time throughout this saga I became extremely angry, very bitter, very frightened, and I wrote to the ECHR to tell them how I felt, how we all felt as a family in fear of losing one of our own to death. We did receive a response, quite quickly, acknowledging receipt of my letter and telling us that it had been included in our Case file. The letter went on to tell us to notify the ECHR as soon as we receive correspondence from the Cour de Cassation; and so we continue to wait!

Tom’s health issues, specifically emphysema, were included in the reasons why we needed to have a lift installed at ground level, to access the first floor of the house in Champagnac. Emphysema doesn’t go away, it can’t be cured, it can only be treated according to the level of advancement, existence and severity of infection, assessment on a day to day basis. Tom can develop a chest infection overnight. We did our homework before moving to France, we knew exactly what types of property we needed to purchase, we knew exactly what provisions needed to be put in place to meet Tom’s needs as a disabled person. That was all deemed to be of no importance by the Riom Appeal Tribunal, in December 2009.

Through life experience, I have found that anger and bitterness are generally counter-productive, but, occasionally, human nature over-rules the need for cool, calm consideration!

Towards the end of our six weeks with Alf, Misty and Arry, Pete returned home and invited us to stay as long as we wished; the house was spacious with several bedrooms, and we all got on like a house on fire! How many people would make such an offer after knowing a family for what, in reality, amounted to no longer than a couple of days?

However, we were booked to cover Christmas and the New Year just outside Royan, a ‘sit’ that we anticipated with much pleasure because the ‘sit’ was for another very close friend, Sue, and we have a great love for her two dogs, Tchica and Elmo. A bonus, Royan is on the same coastline as Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, our favourite coastal town in all of France! Bormes-les-Mimosas, on the Mediterranean coast of France, comes a close second, but hasn’t quite got the edge!

The 17th December 2011 saw us heading back up-country, away from the Tarn-et-Garonne and towards Sue, Tchica and Elmo, just outside Royan. We were driving through yet another major tempest, with another Christmas on our minds as we travelled, our fifth Christmas as hobos in France. But, at least there were still four of us, that was all-important!


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