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How Missing A Comma Costed $10 Billion To A Dairy Brand

| Published on October 18, 2019

The company called Oakhurst Dairy in the state of Maine has faced a major jolt in a recent case where it will have to pay $10 billion to the milk-truck drivers associated with the company.

The case relates to the overtime law in the state of Maine which mentions duties for which there is not any overtime pay. However, the milk-truck drivers are fighting for their pay which will amount to a huge amount for the company.


Why is there an argument?

Let us first look at what the law states and then walk the ladder step by step –
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: Agricultural produce, perishable goods and fish products

Now, it must be noted that the milk-truck drivers are associated with this law since they work with a perishable good – milk and that if one does anything mentioned in the law, they are exempted from the overtime pay. Hence, the company told the drivers that since they do the distribution of milk, they won’t be getting any overtime pay.

There’s no ‘comma’,

However, the argument is that there is no comma after the word shipment in the law. Hence, packing for shipment or distribution is being understood as packing being the role in two categories of shipment and distribution (that is the word distribution is just a modification for shipment) which the milk-truck drivers are not involved with.

Why the issue?

Well, the Maine Legislative Drafting Manual demotivates lawmakers to use commas in sentences. Infact they suggest rewriting law sentences completely rather than using commas for such laws that require a listing of items or terms. In this case, the lawmakers left the comma out but didn’t rewrite the sentence either, giving both sides to have an argument supporting their benefit, earning more money.

Now, the court had earlier declared Oakhurst Dairy the winner but then the United States Court of Appeals denied the decision and favored the milk-drivers argument.

It is said that the Oxford comma must always be used carefully especially when it is the most misused punctuation in English grammar. When such silly errors raise a billion-dollars fine in the legal concerns, it definitely needs a check.

Also Read: 5 Most Expensive Typos In History Which Will Make You Will Think Twice Before Making A Typo

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