Judge Ricciuti ruled that the plaintiff, whose educational-travel trip was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, stated a viable Chapter 93A claim that the contractual remedy provided by the tour operator improperly limited available regulatory remedies.
In Godines, et al. v. EF Explore America, Inc., the contract permitted the tour operator to cancel the plaintiff’s trip due to an “Extraordinary Event.” There was no dispute that the COVID-19 pandemic was such an event. The contract further provided that, in the event of cancellation, customers would receive a voucher for future travel, less non-refundable fees. But the applicable consumer-protection regulation, 940 CMR 15.06, provides that if a trip is cancelled, a travel company must offer a full refund, a substitution travel service of equal value, or a lower-valued travel service and refund the difference. The contract, in other words, offered “more limited relief,” and the tour operator issued only a partial refund.
Judge Ricciuti rejected the tour operator’s defense that because the operator issued the partial refund in compliance with the contract, there could be no violation of Chapter 93A. According to Judge Ricciuti, the allegation that the defendant had “improperly attempted to contract away obligations imposed upon it under a valid regulation promulgated pursuant to Chapter 93A” was enough to state a claim for relief under Chapter 93A. In short, Judge Ricciuti reasoned, “[a] commercial entity like EF cannot override through its contract with a consumer a valid and applicable regulation promulgated under Chapter 93A by the Attorney General.”
View the BLS’ decision.
The Business Litigation Session of Superior Court:
Docket Number: 2184CV1327
Case Name: Jessica Godines, et al., v. EF Explore America, Inc., et al.
Date of Decision: December 20, 2021
Judge: Michael D. Ricciuti, Justice of the Superior Court
Michael J. Leard is a partner in Nutter’s Litigation Department. For over a decade, Mike has represented individuals and companies of all sizes from across the country in the areas of commercial litigation, product liability ...
Eric P. Magnuson co-chairs Nutter’s Business Litigation practice group. Blending practicality with tenacity and strategic thinking, Eric helps clients solve legal challenges so that his clients can focus on what they do ...