Heard: April 7, 2017.
action commenced in the Superior Court Department on November
motion to dismiss was heard by Mitchell H. Kaplan, J.
G. Shapiro (Robert Richardson & Edward C. Cumbo also
present) for the plaintiff.
S. Mackey (Christina S. Marshall also present) for the
Present: Grainger, Sullivan, & Kinder, JJ. 
case we address whether a public transportation authority
breaches a contract with its commuter rail customers when
extraordinary winter storms interrupt the service schedule.
For the reasons that follow, we conclude that in the
circumstances presented here, it does not. Accordingly we
affirm the judgment of dismissal pursuant to Mass.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6), 365 Mass. 754 (1974), for failure to state a breach
of contract claim.
April 22, 2015, the plaintiff, Raquel Rodriguez, brought this
action against the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
(MBTA) and its commuter rail operator, Keolis Commuter
Services, LLC (Keolis), on behalf of a putative class of
purchasers of monthly rail passes in January, February, and
March, 2015. The complaint alleged that the MBTA commuter
rail service suffered severe delays and cancellations during
the record-setting snowstorms of 2015. Rodriguez claimed that
these service disruptions were in breach of the MBTA's
implied contract "to provide timely, reliable commuter
rail service . . . for January, February and March of
2015." In a comprehensive written decision, a Superior
Court judge allowed the MBTA's motion to dismiss. Among
other things, the judge concluded that even if the MBTA had
some form of contractual obligation to its monthly pass
holders, "the complaint fails to allege an essential
element of a breach of contract claim: an agreement between
the parties on a material term of the contract at
issue." This appeal followed.
summarize the allegations in the operative complaint and the
items appearing in the record of the case. See
Schaer v. Brandeis Univ., 432
Mass. 474, 477 (2000) . The MBTA is charged by statute with
providing commuter rail and subway service in eastern
Massachusetts. G. L. c. 161A, §§ 1 and 2. The MBTA
provides service from 138 commuter rail stations situated
along fourteen routes. On an average weekday, the MBTA serves
131, 161 passengers on the commuter rail, and monthly passes
range from seventy-five dollars to $362.
and thousands of other commuters purchased monthly passes in
January, February, and March of 2015. Rodriguez paid $182 for
her so-called "Zone 1" monthly pass, which entitled
her to unlimited travel within that zone. The pass did not
contain information regarding schedules and fares, but
directed passengers to the MBTA's telephone number and
Web site for that information.
winter of 2015, the Boston area was beset by severe
snowstorms. Four separate winter storms, occurring on January
27, February 2, February 7, and February 14, each registered
snow accumulation of ten or more inches. It snowed an
additional seven inches between February 15 and 28, and six
inches in March. The complaint alleges that the intervals
between storms left "more than enough time to clear the
snow and return to a full commuter rail schedule."
the snowstorms, the MBTA canceled all commuter rail, subway,
and most bus service from 7:00 £.M. on Monday, February
9, through the end of the day on Tuesday, February 10. At
some point in February, the MBTA announced a "winter
recovery schedule, " which provided "less than full
commuter rail and [subway] service." Throughout March,
the MBTA ran one or two morning weekday trains per line, and
a total of only four to five trains per day. According to the
complaint, commuters were "largely unable to use their
monthly commuter rail passes for the second half of February
and most of March [of] 2015, or if used at all with
substantial uncertainty and ...