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 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”.The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods.
Daniel Victor, reporting for The New York Times: