A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged
entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families
and foes: The dreaded — or totally necessary — Oxford comma,
perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks.
What ensued in the United States Court of Appeals for the First
Circuit, and in a 29-page court decision handed down on Monday,
was an exercise in high-stakes grammar pedantry that could cost a
dairy company in Portland, Me., an estimated $10 million. […]
The debate over commas is often a pretty inconsequential one, but
it was anything but for the truck drivers. Note the lack of Oxford
comma — also known as the serial comma — in the following state
law, which says overtime rules do not apply to:
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.
The dairy company argued that “packing for shipment” and “distribution” were two different items in the list; the truck drivers argued that it was just one item: “packing for shipment or distribution”.