Clotilde Nonnez, an asthmatic 56-year-old yoga teacher, told French press agency AFP that she had "nearly died" during a spike in air pollution in the capital in December 2016.
Her breathing difficulties had triggered "a serious cardiac problem" she said, adding: "I'm still not over it".
Her lawyer Francois Lafforgue said his client was seeking 140,000 euros for the damage to her health caused by the state's "culpable incompetence" on pollution.
"Her life (has) been heavily disrupted by her medical problems, spells in hospital during during peaks (in pollution) and her ongoing treatment," he said, adding that poor air quality had also increased her chance of getting cancer.
Air pollution is blamed for around 48,000 premature deaths in France each year.
"The victims are invisible so we hope this case will force the authorities to take the full measure of the problem," said Olivier Blond, the president of the environmentalist group Respire (Breathe).
Nonnez accuses the state of failing to get tough on polluters and of not overseeing the proper implementation of preventive measures already in place.
"What I'm hoping for is that the authorities will admit to their failure to manage the problem going back years," she said.
While she is the first such plaintiff to come forward, Lafforgue said around 30 others in Paris, the northern city of Lille and around the southeastern city of Lyon were also planning legal action.