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For the third time, Georgia State Court Senior Judge Charles L. Carnes has ruled in favor of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games on claims involving the 1996 bombing of Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park. In an order issued May 8, Carnes granted summary judgment to ACOG in two Fulton County State Court suits filed on behalf of the estate of a woman killed and others who were injured in the blast. Carnes had ruled from the bench against the plaintiffs in January, but before he entered a written order, the plaintiffs amended their complaint to add counts alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation and nuisance against ACOG. ACOG countered that Carnes’ bench ruling had ended the case, leaving no complaint to amend. Still, Carnes chose to hear arguments on the new claims last month, writing that he did so “out of an abundance of caution.” Now Carnes has dispensed with those recent claims. He granted ACOG’s motion to dismiss the fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims and concluded that Centennial Olympic Park was not a nuisance. THE KEY ISSUE The key legal issue in the case was whether state law insulated ACOG from liability related to the bombing. In 1999, Carnes found that ACOG was covered by the Recreational Property Act, a law that limits liability for property owners who make their land available free of charge for recreational use by the public. But when his 1999 ruling got to the Supreme Court of Georgia, the justices, in Anderson v. Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, 273 Ga. 113 (2000), sent the cases back to Carnes, directing him to apply a new test the court had adopted. That test required examination of all social and economic aspects of the activity at the park. This January, plaintiffs’ lawyers argued to Carnes that the park was a money-making vehicle for ACOG and that the RPA didn’t apply. PARK PURPOSE CALLED COMMERCIAL ACOG, argued plaintiffs’ attorney James N. Sadd of Atlanta’s Slappey & Sadd, was a “huge corporation” that generated $1.7 billion from hosting the Olympics. The purpose of the park, Sadd told Carnes, was commercial in nature, as evidenced by the vending opportunities everywhere, the Olympics souvenirs superstore, and such vendors as Budweiser and Swatch. It was, Sadd argued, “a corporate carnival.” Gilbert H. Deitch of Atlanta’s Bauer & Deitch, another plaintiffs’ lawyer, told Carnes that if he found any evidence of commercial activity at all, he must deny summary judgment and let a jury decide if the RPA applied. But ACOG’s lead attorney, T. Ryan Mock of Atlanta-based Hawkins & Parnell, argued that Carnes should make that decision and find that the RPA applied to Centennial Park. ACOG: LOST MONEY ON PARK ACOG, Mock said, was a nonprofit corporation and lost $8.76 million by providing the park. The only purpose of the revenue generated by vending in the park was to defray operating costs, he said, adding that the park was never expected to make a profit, but was “there for pure recreation.” Carnes agreed in his May 8 order, noting that access to the park was free, had acres of grass for recreation, public artwork, free concerts and exhibits. There was no requirement that the public spend money there, the judge wrote. The Supreme Court’s earlier decision in the case, Carnes said, recognized that advertisement and corporate sponsorship do not exclude the property from the provisions of the RPA. Carnes previously denied another defense motion for summary judgment. ACOG had argued that the plaintiffs couldn’t show that any alleged negligence on ACOG’s part was the proximate cause of their injuries. While the plaintiffs won on that score, should Georgia’s appellate courts uphold Carnes’ RPA ruling, the negligence claim effectively would be gutted. Hawthorne v. Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, No. 98VS0141809 (Fult. St. order filed May 8, 2002).

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