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A state appeals panel on Thursday revived claims brought by victims of the 1996 bombing at Centennial Olympic Park against the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. The three-judge panel of the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed last year’s ruling by a Fulton County judge that said a state law immunizing recreational park owners from suits applied to Atlanta Olympic organizers. Presiding Judge Edward H. Johnson of the appeals court 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 added. “They not only generated millions of dollars in actual revenue, but also gained untold advertising and promotional value due to the conspicuous presence in the Park,” wrote Johnson, who was joined by Judges Frank M. Eldridge and Charles B. Mikell Jr. The panel sent the case back to Senior Judge Charles L. 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, Hawthorne v. Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, Nos. A03A0428 and A03A0429 (Ct. App. Ga. June 12, 2003). If the jury finds that the park was commercial, ACOG would lose any protection from the Recreational Property Act. Thursday’s decision was the second recent piece of good news for the victims of the July 27, 1996, blast, which killed one woman and injured more than 100. The man federal authorities have indicted for the attack, Eric Robert Rudolph, was captured on May 31 after five years on the run in the mountains of North Carolina. Rudolph first will face charges for the 1998 bombing of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., that killed a police officer and maimed a nurse. He has pleaded innocent to those charges. After the Alabama trial, federal prosecutors say Rudolph will come to Atlanta to face trial for the Olympic bombing and 1997 bombings of a Sandy Springs, Ga., abortion clinic and an Atlanta lesbian nightclub. Thursday’s decision reinstated two suits brought by dozens of people injured in the Olympic bombing, as well as spouses of victims suing for loss of consortium. John Hawthorne is suing for the wrongful death of his wife, Alice Stubbs Hawthorne, who was killed in the bombing. James N. Sadd of Atlanta’s Slappey & Sadd, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said he was not surprised by the decision. “We’ve argued all along that it’s a jury question,” he said from West Virginia, where he was vacationing. Sadd said that if a jury decides the park was commercial, that would remove ACOG’s protection from the recreation act and potentially clear the way for a jury to find ACOG liable for negligence, “which we believe we’ll prove beyond a shadow of a doubt.” Sadd added that the capture of Rudolph could help the victims’ case if Rudolph testifies that he entered Olympic Park without being detained by security. “What we expect,” Sadd said, “… is that Mr. Rudolph, and anyone who may have helped him, found it very easy to bring the biggest pipe bomb ever found by the FBI into the park that should have been secured by ACOG. “But we don’t know what he’ll testify,” Sadd said. Hawthorne’s attorney, Gilbert H. Deitch, of Atlanta’s Bauer & Deitch, learned of the decision while on vacation in Vancouver. “Now that Mr. Rudolph has been apprehended we will now have our day in court with ACOG and Mr. Rudolph on inadequate security and the murder of Alice Hawthorne,” Deitch said. “This was a crime of opportunity. Mr. Rudolph, we believe, committed the crime, and ACOG provided the opportunity.” Richard S. Jaffe, Rudolph’s lawyer in Birmingham, said, “At the appropriate time, Mr. Rudolph will plead not guilty” to the Olympic bombing. An assistant to ACOG’s lawyer, T. Ryan Mock Jr. of Atlanta-based Hawkins & Parnell, said Mock was out of town at a seminar and had not reviewed the opinion, so could offer no comment as of press time. Appellate summary editor Kelly Sahler contributed to this report.

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