However, Justice Richard Giardino refused the state’s request to shut down the rafting company for good. He also dismissed the state’s claim that the company had engaged in false advertising by billing its rafting trips as safe.
In a May 15 decision, Giardino noted that Patrick Cunningham, the owner, “was a pioneer in the industry and … has provided guided river excursions with rafts, kayaks and canoes for over thirty years.” During that time, the court added, Cunningham and his employees “have successfully guided thousands of customers down various rivers without incident.”
However, the judge barred Hudson River Rafting from sending customers on whitewater trips alone on rivers where state law requires outfitters to supply a guide.
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Cunningham and his company last fall, several weeks after a customer drowned in the Indian River. The guide on that trip later admitted he was drunk.
In the suit, the attorney general’s office offered evidence that Hudson River Rafting often sent customers on trips with no guides or unlicensed guides. Also, guides sometimes transported customers to the put-in without a proper driver’s license.
In March, Giardino ruled against Cunningham on three of the four causes of action alleged in the suit. At the time, he withheld judgment on the false-advertising claim until he could review more evidence and hear more arguments. In last week’s decision, he dismissed that cause of action.
Cunningham’s attorney, Jason Britt of Glens Falls, could not be reached for comment. The Associated Press, which broke the story on the latest ruling, reported that he said Cunningham intends to resume rafting trips. Giardino had barred Hudson River Rafting from offering whitewater trips until the lawsuit was decided.
Click the link below to read the decision (PDF format).
Photo by Phil Brown: Patrick Cunningham, right, and one of his lawyers.