Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Gatens Suing Funeral Home Owner Harding ; Lawsuit Alleges Grandson of Founder Is Owed $113K Plus Interest, Deed to Winfield Property

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Gatens Suing Funeral Home Owner Harding ; Lawsuit Alleges Grandson of Founder Is Owed $113K Plus Interest, Deed to Winfield Property

Article excerpt

The grandson of the man who started the Poca-based Gatens- Harding Funeral Home is suing the current owner who has been accused of racketeering related to the sale of more than 100 pre-need funeral arrangements. J. Michael Gatens III claims in a lawsuit filed last month in Putnam County Circuit Court that Chad Harding owes him $113,000 plus interest and never provided him the deed to a property in Winfield that was to be used as collateral.

Now that deed might be tied up in federal court, where Harding and his wife, Billie, are being sued by an Iowa-based insurance company, Homesteaders Life Co.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Robert Chambers in January granted a pre-judgment motion filed by attorneys for Homesteaders and put an attachment on the property which would allow the insurance company to sell it if the company wins the lawsuit.

"Upon information and belief, the deed to the property described in the Promissory Note is subject to an Order of prejudgment attachment in Homesteaders Life Company v. Gatens-Harding Funeral Home, Bowles Rice attorney Josh Johnson wrote in Gatens' complaint.

On Thursday, Johnson said he couldn't go into detail about certain allegations at this early stage in the case. He didn't know the relationship between the two men and wouldn't say what the debt was over.

Gatens lives in Alberta, Canada, the lawsuit states. He is the grandson of Joseph Sr. and Norma Lee Gatens, who started the Gatens Funeral Home in 1940, according to the funeral home's website. The Hardings became the sole owners of the funeral home in 2004.

Hurricane attorney Jeff Woods, who represents the Hardings, couldn't be reached Thursday. He has not yet filed an answer to the complaint.

Gatens and Harding entered into an agreement in May 2014, the lawsuit states. A copy of a promissory note with both men's signatures is attached to the complaint. …

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