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Court approves delay bid

Judge Stephen Goss

Judge Stephen Goss

ALBANY, Ga. — Dougherty Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss has granted a defense motion to continue a hearing on a request by plaintiffs seeking a temporary restraining order against Lamad Ministries/Seasons Christian Care Center and the facility’s principles, William and Eric Eidenire.

In addition to asking for compensatory and actual damages, attorney’s fees and costs in their suit against Seasons Christian and the Eidenires, eight current or former residents at Seasons Christian Care are seeking injunctive relief to prevent “the Eidenire defendants and defendant Seasons Christian Care” from “conceal(ing) and dispos(ing) of such personal and real property (including property belonging to plaintiffs), including money.”

The plaintiffs in the case — Samuel and Euvida Spivey, Betty Odom, Helen Blackwell, the estate of Genevieve McDonald, Virginia Sanderson, JoAnn Yarborough, Sylvia Johnson and Ida Preston — have charged the Eidenires and Seasons Christian Care with breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization, or RICO, Act.

Goss was to hear arguments Friday on the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order that would keep the defendants from “disposing, conveying, transferring, assigning or otherwise alienating properties which were obtained and/or derived from and/or are proceeds of the unlawful acts ... described.”

Former Dougherty Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ken Hodges, who will team with Atlanta business attorney Lauren Antonino in representing the Eidenires and Seasons Christian Care, asked for the continuance so that he might have more time to prepare for the hearing.

“Schedule changes in the court system are routine,” Chris Cohilas, Hodges’ former chief assistant in the district attorney’s office and the attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, said Wednesday. “We asked for a speedy hearing on this matter, and the court has been very accommodating.”

Hodges prepared a response to the Seasons Christian Care residents’ request for injunctive relief last week. He offered two arguments — “Plaintiff’s complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted in whole or in part” and “Plaintiffs’ claims, if any, are barred by estoppel, waiver, laches, unclean hands and/or legal excuse — against the action.

“Plaintiffs have come before this court with an unverified complaint on a woefully incomplete and misleading record and have asked this court to grant extraordinary relief to which they are plainly not entitled,” the response states. “Plaintiffs have not shown that there is a vital and urgent need to preserve the status quo to prevent some immediate harm or irreparable injury from occurring, much less that they are substantially likely to prevail on the merits.

“To the contrary, the allegations show that plaintiffs are complaining about a contract dispute that has been around for the majority of the past decade and that more harm will be caused by granting the relief requested than by denying it.”

Cohilas downplayed the significance of Hodges’ involvement in the case.

“I know and respect Ken, and I know we’re both going to represent our clients to the best of our ability,” Cohilas said. “There’s nothing unique about this situation; apparently there is interest in the me vs. him aspect, but I don’t look at it that way.

“I’m going to make my presentation of evidence in the courthouse based on information gathered and on witness testimony. It wouldn’t be proper to comment on any evidentiary findings prior to this hearing.”

At a preliminary hearing on the case held Oct. 7, Goss told Cohilas it would take “extraordinary circumstances” to grant the temporary restraining order his clients were requesting.