Friday, April 26, 2013

Judge Says Rafting Company Violated Law

cunningham-300x246The state attorney general’s office has won the bulk of its lawsuit against Hudson River Rafting Company and its owner, Patrick Cunningham.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard Giardino ruled on March 29 in favor of the state on three of four causes of action, finding that Hudson River Rafting violated the law by repeatedly sending customers on whitewater-rafting trips with unlicensed guides and transporting them in buses with unlicensed drivers.

The judge has yet to determine any penalties, but he continued an order forbidding Hudson River Rafting from running whitewater-rafting trips. The whitewater season began a few weeks ago.

In the suit, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman asks the judge to shut down the rafting business and force it to reimburse dissatisfied customers. He also wants the company to be fined.

Schneiderman filed the suit last fall, several weeks after a rafting customer drowned in the Indian River. The guide on that trip, Rory Fay of North Creek, admitted he was drunk at the time. He pleaded guilty in Hamilton County Court in November to criminally negligent homicide, a felony, and two misdemeanors, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

The suit contains four causes of action, alleging that Hudson River Rafting:

  • Repeatedly provided rafting guides who were not licensed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
  • In using unlicensed guides, misrepresented its services and engaged in fraud.
  • Transported customers to and from launch sites in buses operated by drivers who didn’t possess the requisite license.
  • Engaged in false and misleading advertising by portraying its trips as safe, guided excursions.

Based on evidence submitted by both parties, Giardino found Hudson River Rafting and Cunningham did indeed violate the law with respect to the first three causes of action, with no need of a trial. However, he said he must hold a trial to determine questions of fact regarding the last cause of action.

Kyle Canary, the judge’s clerk, said a hearing will be held Tuesday to determine how to proceed with the remaining cause of action. At a later date, the judge will hold another hearing to assess penalties, if any, on all the causes of action.

Patrick Cunningham refused to comment on the case Thursday.

In January, Cunningham was tried in Hamilton County Court on a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment for sending a father and daughter on a whitewater trip in unguided rubber kayaks. He was acquitted after a three-day trial.

File photo by Phil Brown: Patrick Cunningham, right, and his criminal-defense attorney, Joseph Brennan, outside the Hamilton County Courthouse.

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Phil Brown is the former Editor of Adirondack Explorer, the regional bimonthly with a focus on outdoor recreation and environmental issues, the same topics he writes about here at Adirondack Almanack. Phil is also an energetic outdoorsman whose job and personal interests often find him hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, trail running, and backcountry skiing. He is the author of Adirondack Paddling: 60 Great Flatwater Adventures, which he co-published with the Adirondack Mountain Club, and the editor of Bob Marshall in the Adirondacks, an anthology of Marshall’s writings.Visit Lost Pond Press for more information.

2 Responses

  1. Rafting in Rishikesh says:

    good judgement!!! those who are not following the rules should be penalized.

  2. Christa Ocker says:

    To take a consumer complaint to the supreme court is ridiculous. Does the attorney general not have enough to do with real criminals – organized crime, drug dealers, corruption, etc. etc. etc.?
    Anyone undertaking an adventure in the Adirondacks should take responsibility for his/her own safety. To possibly close down one of the best tourist attractions in the area is unconscionable. Pat Cunningham has made it possible for countless, including the not-so-well to do folks, to enjoy many of the thrills the Adirondacks has to offer. We have been customers for years, and will always be grateful to him.

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