Almost three years after spilling coffee on herself at Café du Monde in Kenner and then being jailed on allegations that her reaction was so profane it drove away other customers, public meetings gadfly Sandra “18” Wheeler Hester amicably settled a lawsuit for damages that she filed against the business.
But the outcome of her case against Kenner and its police force was less favorable. A Jefferson Parish judge this week dismissed Hester’s claims that officers used excessive force on her and falsely arrested her, among other things, after they were called to the Williams Boulevard coffee and beignets shop on March 10, 2013.
Hester said Friday she will appeal a ruling dismissing her claims against Kenner — signed Wednesday by 24th Judicial District Court Judge Ellen Kovach — “as far as it can be appealed.”
“Obviously, the ruling was contrary to law,” said Hester, who became famous for her outspoken and often disruptive tirades at Orleans Parish School Board and New Orleans City Council meetings through the years, as well as her show on public-access TV. “The evidence is in my favor.”
In court records, Hester claims she purchased a large mug of hot coffee at Café du Monde, but the lid wasn’t secured properly, causing her to spill it on herself as she sat down, burning herself.
Accounts of what happened next vary significantly.
According to police, employees told them that Hester — who is black — was “cursing everybody out in (the) dining room” in profane and racially charged language.
A paramedic who was cleaning and bandaging “a reddened area” near Hester’s left wrist heard her hurl obscenities “at children and some of the elderly people” at the shop, prompting some parents to cover their kids ears’ while pushing them out of the place, police said in court records.
Hester was arrested on a count of disturbing the peace. On her way to a police cruiser for her ride to jail, police said, she twice fell to the ground and yelled, “Tase me!”
Hester disputes that. She claimed she was sitting quietly in the coffee shop after being scalded when two officers suddenly came in and slapped handcuffs over her burn, causing her further pain.
She said the officers caused her to fall down by making her walk faster than an old leg injury allowed and then threatened to shoot her with a stun gun. She claimed she was not given proper medical attention and was humiliated and defamed.
Hester sued Café du Monde, its insurance company, Kenner and the city’s Police Department for damages in March 2014. She agreed to settle the case against the business and the insurer for an undisclosed amount last month, but the city contended the police had probable cause to arrest Hester, and it asked Kovach to dismiss her claims against Kenner and the cops.
Attorneys representing the city said Hester’s bandaged arm was evidence that she had received care, and they said a paramedic checked her vital signs while she was in the jail’s custody after she requested more medical attention.
Kovach sided with Kenner following a Jan. 22 hearing.
While the ruling prevents Hester from refiling her case in 24th Judicial District Court, Kovach ordered each side to bear their own litigation costs.