From left, Ken Hodges and Chris Cohilas
ALBANY, Ga. — The lawsuit filed by eight current or former residents of Lamad Ministries/Seasons Christian Care Center against the assisted living facility and its principles, William and Eric Eidenire, took a surprise turn this week that will certainly spark local interest in the court proceedings.
Former Dougherty Judicial Circuit District Attorney Ken Hodges has signed on as co-counsel representing Seasons Christian Care and the Eidenires, pitting him for the first time against his former chief assistant, Chris Cohilas.
Hodges, who is currently a partner with the Atlanta-based Ashe, Rafuse & Hill LLP firm, was signed on as co-counsel by Atlanta business attorney Lauren Antonino.
“This will be the first time that Lauren and I have worked together, but I’m certain my knowledge of that situation with Seasons Christian Care and of the Dougherty circuit had something to do with her asking me to sign on as co-counsel,” Hodges said in a phone interview.
“The truth is, I don’t ordinarily talk about a pending case with the media, but Chris has made a lot of comments about it on the record, so I’m inclined to answer some of your questions.”
Defendants Sam and Euvida Spivey, Betty Odom, Helen Blackwell, the estate of Genevieve McDonald, Virginia Sanderson, JoAnn Yarborough, Sylvia Johnson and Ida Preston are seeking damages, claiming that Seasons Christian Care and the Eidenires, among other charges, are guilty of breach of contract, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and violation of the Georgia Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization, or RICO, Act.
The defendants are seeking compensatory, actual and punitive damages, the appointment of a temporary trustee to oversee Seasons Christian Care’s assets, attorneys fees and a jury trial.
Hodges, meanwhile, said the Eidenires will seek to put a “stop once and for all to what has amounted to a decade of frivolous lawsuits and actions” and to recover some of the money that his clients have spent defending themselves in court.
“We will ask for every remedy that my clients are entitled to,” he said.
Superior Court Judge Stephen Goss conducted an initial hearing in the case on Oct. 7 and set a preliminary court date for Friday, but that date was continued because of an ongoing trial over which Goss is presiding.
“I’ve never faced Ken in court before; we’ve generally worked together in the past,” Cohilas said Wednesday evening. “I’m looking forward to representing my clients, though, no matter who’s on the other side.
“I intend to zealously defend my clients, and I’m looking forward to doing that in court. I’m not going to try this case in the press.”
Hodges said the Spiveys in particular have a history of bringing charges against Seasons Christian Care and the Eidenires.
“I mostly know what I’ve read about the case, but I know the Spiveys have brought action in every court in Dougherty County as well as other state and local agencies,” Hodges said. “And in every instance, the court or non-judicial body that has looked at the case has ruled in favor of the Eidenires.
“I’ve never spoken with Mr. Spivey, but I will tell you I get the sense he has a vendetta against my clients. And this is a man who in one instance had Seasons Christian Care file an eviction notice against him. And even when they were successful, they decided not to seek to have him removed. Looking at what’s happened, that’s kind of hard to understand, but (Seasons Christian Care) is based on a Christian ministry.”
Cohilas countered that the Eidenires’ claims of court victories are “subject to interpretation.”
“I don’t know that I’d call what they’ve gotten victories,” he said.
Hodges said that while his involvement in the case has been limited thus far, he’s surprised at the charges in the lawsuit.
“In essence, these are the same claims that Mr. Spivey and others have been making for the last decade or so, only on steroids,” Hodges said. “The charges are actually of a criminal nature, and it was my experience when I was in the district attorney’s office that if there were allegations of individuals preying on the elderly, they were immediately indicted.
“Knowing Chris’ passion for such cases, I feel that if there had been any basis for criminal complaints while he was with the district attorney’s office, he would have sought an indictment. That didn’t happen. This is just the same charges that have been disallowed in court before only with more explosive language and a lot of fanfare.”
Goss rescheduled a court date in the case for Nov. 11.