The Cost of a Missing Comma

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Oakhurst Dairy Learns the Cost of a Missing Comma

To Oxford comma or not Oxford comma isn’t the question Hamlet asked as he contemplated life or death, but maybe he should have. The lack of an Oxford comma in a Maine law has come at an exorbitant price for Oakhurst Dairy: approximately $10 million.

David G. Webbert, Jeffrey Neil Young, Roberta L. de Araujo, and Carol J. Garvan of Johnson, Webbert & Young represented truck drivers in a class-action lawsuit against Oakhurst Dairy concerning more than four years’ worth of overtime pay. While Maine law requires workers to be paid time-and-a-half for every additional hour over 40 per week, there are some exemptions, as detailed in the following state law:

“The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

1. Agricultural produce;

2. Meat and fish products; and

3. Perishable foods.”

Due to the lack of Oxford comma after “shipment,” the First U .S. Circuit Court o f Appeals determined that there was enough uncertainty for them to rule in favor of the truck drivers, reversing a lower court decision.

The drivers had earned between $46,000 and $52,000 per year, working an average 12 extra hours a week without earning overtime. While three drivers filed the class-action lawsuit, the total sum after legal fees will be divided amongst 75 truck drivers.