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.