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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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Destiny

Picking up pet/house sits via the forum, on which, to my great surprise at being asked, I had become a member of the moderating team, we were quickly ‘booked’ by a number of pet/house owners across France! In fact, when Tom and I left Sue and Rick’s house in Montpon-Ménestérol, family and I were separated for several weeks from then, throughout July and August 2009. Two of us remained at Sue and Rick’s house to care for their pets, including two super dogs, a charismatic chook called Beaky, due to her twisted beak, and kind-hearted Fritz, their cat! Tom returned to the Aveyron to care for Skye’s little cat, Slinky, and two more cats that had arrived from the UK. I travelled across the Dordogne to Diane and Brian’s home on the outskirts of Les Eyzies, where I looked after their two brilliant dogs, Leah and Suzy, Tinker, the cat with human traits, and a large number of fascinating tortoises!

When we eventually got back together, family and I headed to a camping site in the Deux-Sevres, owned and run by the busiest British family we have met in France! Janet and Mark, and their two teen-aged sons, still run the camping site, in addition to working in their very busy, individual vocations. Every time we return to Janet and Mark’s tranquil camping site, enhanced by gently undulating farmlands and meadowland between Melle and Chef-Boutonne, we feel so warmly welcome, as if we were family returning to the fold.

From Deux-Sevres, we moved south again, back to the Mediterranean sun, sea and sand, where a dog stole our food and his owner may well have saved our lives! We arrived back on the Manjastre camping site, in the Var, in beautiful, hot sunshine. We were warmly welcomed back by the owners, and we enjoyed meeting many of the regular visitors, of several nationalities, who had been going to Manjastre for years. We made the most of being on that wonderful coastline during the following three weeks, and we spent a lot of the time sight-seeing as cheaply as we could. During our fourth and last week there, we returned from a day spent on the beach in Bormes-les-Mimosas, to find the contents of our tent had been wrecked; bread, (melted) butter, long-life yoghurt, UHT milk and cheese, cooked ham, it had all been taken! But, there was a paper trail, we followed it to a dog’s kennel located on the boundary of the owners’ garden and the camping pitches. There lay a gorgeous Golden Retriever, cleaning his front paws after devouring products that must surely have given him a very sore stomach before nightfall! That was our thief!

I had to let the owner know, we were so worried that the dog might have been poisoned by rancid butter and such-like! But, he was more concerned about our losses! As I explained to him, we needed to accept those losses every day, due to the heat of the day, it was an occupational hazard for us. The dog’s health was our immediate concern.

Two nights later, a huge Atlantic storm blew in, only our bodyweight kept the tent on the ground during that night. The winds were horrendously strong, and the trees all around us were virtually bent double. Throughout the night, we listened to the wind and the cracking branches, the tent was almost drowned in leaves, twigs and small branches by the time we ventured outside just after 6am the following morning. Later that day, the camping site owner came to see us, he asked us to go into one of the site’s static caravans that night, he was worried about the weather forecast, a second storm was expected. We thanked him, and we said we would pay for the night’s accommodation, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He said he still felt embarrassed by his dog stealing our food, we all laughed and told him we were happy the dog had not suffered any nasty effects.

That night, we slept in the caravan that was sited at the top of the camping site, after packing away our tent and possessions. Through the night, the wind howled, and the rain absolutely hammered down, it was a continuous torrent for hours. The following morning, we discovered that our previous tenting pitch had been washed down the steeply sloping hillside in a mudslide. If we had been in our tent through that night, we would have ended up at the bottom of the hill under tons of mud and branches.

It seems to us that we are destined to continue our fight to the bitter end!

 

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