Olympics Ends Up In Lawyer Games

Here's a sad commentary on the fleeting nature of Olympian glory: Nearly a decade after what proved to be a disappointing mid-'90s spectacle tainted by scandal and domestic terrorism, virtually all that remains of the once-mighty Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games is a handful of attorneys battling a series of multimillion-dollar civil lawsuits by victims of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing.

One such lawsuit, brought by Carletta Ash, a woman whose arm was shattered by shrapnel from the 1996 blast, was settled just last week for undisclosed terms, a few days before its May 2 trial date.

That leaves at least 38 more plaintiffs still pressing their cases against ACOG or, more accurately, against Fireman's Fund, ACOG's luckless insurance company. As a corporate entity, ACOG was formally dissolved in 1998, leaving only $1 million in escrow to cover outstanding claims. Attorney Ryan Mock, who says he was retained by the insurer, confirms that any claims awarded against ACOG will have to be paid out of the insurance policy, whose reported value ranges from $100 million to $350 million.

But first, Mock says, plaintiffs will need to prove that ACOG was liable for their injuries, caused by confessed bomber Eric Rudolph.

According to a perplexing decision last year by the Georgia Supreme Court, the juries in each lawsuit must first determine whether Centennial Olympic Park during the Games was a recreational or commercial venue. Only if the park is deemed a commercial venue - by virtue, presumably, of the presence of pavilions for Swatch, AT&T and others - is ACOG legally liable for what the lawsuits characterize as lax security leading up to the bombing.

That means, inexplicably, that one jury can decide that ACOG is liable, while another jury can reach the opposite conclusion, making every trial even more of a crapshoot than usual.

The next case likely won't arrive in Fulton State Court until sometime next year, if at all, but the eventual trial could be interesting: Rudolph has been subpoenaed by plaintiffs attorneys to testify that ACOG had slipshod security.??

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