Court Ruling Hinging on Comma Ignites Grammarian Style War

Mar 17, 2017

PORTLAND, Maine - It all came down to a missing comma, and not just any one.
 
A federal appeals court decided this week to keep alive an Oakhurst Dairy drivers' lawsuit seeking more than $10 million in overtime.
 
It concerned an exemption from Maine's overtime law saying it doesn't apply to "canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of'' foods.
 
There's no Oxford, or serial, comma in the "packing for shipment or distribution'' part. The drivers said the words referred to the single activity of packing, which the drivers don't do. Oakhurst said the words referenced two different activities and drivers fall within the exemption.
 
 Circuit Judge David Barron in Boston wrote : "For want of a comma, we have this case.''
 
A social media frenzy about commas has erupted since.