Weaver v. Palmer Brothers Co.,
270 U.S. 402 (1926)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Weaver v. Palmer Brothers Co., 270 U.S. 402 (1926)

Weaver v. Palmer Brothers Company

No. 510

Argued December 11, 1925

Decided March 8, 1926

270 U.S. 402


1. Legislative determinations are entitled to great weight, but it is always open to interested parties to show that the legislature has transgressed the limits of its power. P. 270 U. S. 410.

2. Invalidity of a legislative act may be shown by things that may be judicially noticed, or by facts established by evidence, the burden being on the attacking party to establish the invalidating facts. P. 270 U. S. 410.

Page 270 U. S. 403

3. A state law (Pa.Ls.1923, c. 802) forbidding the use, in comfortables, of shoddy, even when sterilized, is so far arbitrary and unreasonable that it violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 270 U. S. 410, 270 U. S. 415.

4. Without considering whether the mere failure of the Act to prohibit the use of other filling materials is sufficient to invalidate the prohibition of the use of shoddy as a violation of the equal protection clause, the number and character of the things permitted to be used in such manufacture properly may be taken into account in deciding whether the prohibition of shoddy is a reasonable and valid regulation or is arbitrary and violative of the due process clause. P. 270 U. S. 412.

5. Such a prohibition cannot be sustained, as a health measure, in face of evidence showing that shoddy, even when composed of second-hand materials, is rendered harmless by sterilization, and in face of permission in the same Act to use numerous other kinds of materials if sterilized when second-hand. P. 270 U. S. 411.

6. Nor can such prohibition be sustained as a measure to prevent deception, since deception may be avoided by adequate regulations. P. 270 U. S. 414.

7. Constitutional guaranties cannot be made to yield to mere convenience. P. 270 U. S. 415.

8. Every opinion of the Court is to be read with regard to the facts of the case and the question actually decided. Powell v. Pennsylvania, 127 U. S. 678, distinguished. P. 270 U. S. 414.

3 F.2d 333 affirmed.

Appeal from a decree of the district court enjoining the defendant (appellant), an official of Pennsylvania, from enforcing against the plaintiff (appellee) a law of that state regulating the manufacture and sale of bedding, insofar as it forbade the use of shoddy. Plaintiff manufactured comfortables in Connecticut, using shoddy made of new and second-hand materials, and sold its product in Pennsylvania. See also 266 U.S. 588.

Page 270 U. S. 408

Primary Holding

Due process does not allow the government to ban the use of a certain fill material in bedding.


Palmer Bros. Co. produced three million comfortables per year, of which 750,000 were filled with a mix of rags and debris known as shoddy. It was a Connecticut company that sold some of its products in Pennsylvania. A Pennsylvania law prohibited the use of shoddy in making comfortables. The state failed to produce evidence that the use of shoddy was connected to diseases or other health risks, and the material could be cheaply sanitized.



  • Pierce Butler (Author)
  • William Howard Taft
  • Willis Van Devanter
  • James Clark McReynolds
  • George Sutherland
  • Edward Terry Sanford

This law fails the rational basis standard of review because it is an arbitrary and unreasonable measure that has no connection to public health. There is no evidence showing that users of these bedding products are subject to health risks, whether or not they are sterilized, and in any event they can be easily and cheaply sterilized.


  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Author)
  • Louis Dembitz Brandeis
  • Harlan Fiske Stone

The legislature should have received more deference in making its factual determinations regarding the use of unsterilized shoddy. Its measures should be deemed constitutional if it finds that there is a significant health risk and that there is no other way to avert it.

Case Commentary

Since the evidence showed that there was no health rationale for the law, it could be struck down under rational basis review because it no longer had any purpose.

Disclaimer: Justia Annotations is a forum for attorneys to summarize, comment on, and analyze case law published on our site. Justia makes no guarantees or warranties that the annotations are accurate or reflect the current state of law, and no annotation is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.