An Oxford comma ended up costing a Maine dairy processing company $5 million via a class action lawsuit settlement with their drivers.
Oakhurst Dairy was sued in 2014 for $10 million by five drivers who were named plaintiffs in the case and a total of 127 drivers in the class action lawsuit. The drivers alleged that they were owed overtime pay from the processor for routinely driving 50 to 60 hours, as the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit was settled on Feb. 8 and the five primary plaintiffs will be awarded $50,000 each. The other drivers will be paid based on overtime hours driven from May 2008 until August 2012.
The case hinged on the lack of a comma in Maine’s state law regarding overtime pay. According to the law, exemptions for overtime are applied for “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing packing for shipment or distribution of” foods. Drivers argued the exemption did not apply because they aren’t packing produce and because there’s no comma to separate the activity from “distribution.”
A federal court in Maine originally ruled in favor of Oakhurst Dairy. After an appeal the case went to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, where the court ruled in favor of the drivers in March 2017. The case was set to go back to a federal district court in Maine prior to the settlement.
Started in 1921, Oakhurst Dairy was formerly a family owned company prior to being bought by Dairy Farmers of America in January 2014. The lawsuit was against the previous owners of Oakhurst.