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Atlanta�The Georgia Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal by Atlanta Olympic organizers in their effort to avoid liability for the death and injuries caused by the 1996 bombing of Centennial Olympic Park. The court last week split, 4-3, on whether to take up the case brought by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, which is fighting two suits brought by dozens of people injured in the bombing and John Hawthorne, whose wife, Alice Stubbs Hawthorne, was killed. The cases have moved between Fulton County, Ga., State Court and the Georgia Court of Appeals for five years as lawyers have argued over whether the park’s purpose was commercial or purely recreational. If the courts determine that the park was purely recreational, the state Recreational Property Act would immunize the committee from the suits. In 1999, Senior Judge Charles L. Carnes said the Olympic body was covered by the 1965 property act, which protects owners who make their private or public property available for recreational use to the public free of charge. Carnes’ decision went straight to the state Supreme Court because the plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the property act. In 2000, the court upheld the law but adopted from a Wisconsin appeals court a balancing test to decide whether park activities were recreational. The Wisconsin test instructs courts to examine “the intrinsic nature of the activity, the type of service or commodity offered to the public, and the activity’s purpose and consequence.” Using that test, Carnes again ruled for the Olympic committee. He was reversed in June by the state Court of Appeals. Presiding Judge Edward H. Johnson acknowledged that Centennial Olympic Park had many “intrinsically recreational” aspects. But corporate pavilions, the Bud World sports bar, a food court and an Olympic souvenir store were “intrinsically commercial,” he wrote. The panel sent the cases back to Carnes to hold a jury trial on whether “the nature of the Park, at the time of the explosion, was commercial or recreational.” Anderson v. Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games and Hawthorne v. Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, nos. A03A0428 and A03A0429 (Ga. Ct. App. June 12, 2003).

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