$5M Lawsuit Over an Oxford Comma Is Settled

Maine dairy drivers' suit stemmed over unclear verbiage on overtime
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2018 8:21 AM CST
$5M Lawsuit Over an Oxford Comma Is Settled
In this 2006 file photo, Oakhurst Dairy trucks are lined up at the dairy in Portland, Maine.   (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach, File)

Maine dairy drivers who picked a court fight over grammar have an extra $5 million to show for their geekery, reports the AP. Oakhurst Dairy drivers settled their 2014 lawsuit last week for a relatively big pay day—they had originally sought $10 million—after a federal appeals court decided to keep the drivers' lawsuit alive last year. The suit concerned an exemption from Maine's overtime law that says it doesn't apply to "canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of" foods. An Oxford comma after "shipment" would have clarified the intent of the law, or as the plaintiffs' lawyer said earlier, "That comma would have sunk our ship."

The state legislature has since amended the language to read thusly: "The canning; processing; preserving; freezing; drying; marketing; storing; packing for shipment; or distributing of," which the New York Times notes gives us the chance "to replace Oxford comma pedantry with semicolon pedantry." But alas, notes the Times, "the resolution means there will be no ruling from the land’s highest courts on whether the Oxford comma—the often-skipped second comma in a series like “A, B, and C”—is an unnecessary nuisance or a sacred defender of clarity, as its fans and detractors endlessly debate." (More on the case here.)

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