Kentrell Hurst

Kentrell Hurst, who died in the New Orleans jail on Sunday, is pictured in this undated photograph. (Photo submitted by family)

Nurses and Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies ignored the pain, nausea, vomiting and cries for help of a woman who died while detoxing at the New Orleans jail last year, her children alleged in a federal lawsuit filed Friday.

Kentrell Hurst’s four children said the failure to heed those warning signs led to her unnecessary death.

It is the latest legal claim to target Sheriff Marlin Gusman and the jail’s private health care provider, Wellpath.

“This is a case about yet another tragic, unnecessary, and preventable death at the Orleans Parish Prison,” the family said in its lawsuit. “Ms. Hurst’s condition constituted a full-blown medical emergency requiring immediate medical intervention.”

Weeks before her death, the 36-year-old Hurst had testified in an Orleans Parish Criminal District Court case where she accused a man of raping her. On May 25, 2018, police arrested her on a claim that she shoplifted $57 worth of goods from a Rouse’s Market in Gentilly.

Hurst’s brother said she had a severe substance abuse problem that accelerated after the incident where she accused the man of rape, and that she likely snatched the goods with the intention to sell them for drugs.

Hurst told jail employees as she was booked she had just used heroin. She was placed on a special clinical opiate withdrawal symptom protocol, which is supposed to lead to stepped-up monitoring of inmates’ health.

The lawsuit alleges that on May 27, 2018, two days after her arrest, Hurst complained of severe abdominal pain and nausea to health care workers employed by Wellpath, formerly known as Correct Care Solutions, and jail employees.

But no one checked Hurst’s vital signs, which would have shown that she was in a “medical crisis” requiring immediate hospitalization, according to the lawsuit. Hurst was pronounced dead at the jail at 9:36 p.m. on May 27.

In August, the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office ruled that she died a natural death caused by hypertensive cardiovascular disease. The coroner’s report also noted that she had “chronic multiple drug toxicity.”

No one was criminally charged in connection with Hurst’s death, said Blake Arcuri, general counsel for the Sheriff’s Office. However, Arcuri said that one Wellpath employee was fired for reporting inaccurate information on a form involving her medication administration.

Arcuri declined comment on the lawsuit, citing its pending status. Wellpath did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The wrongful death claim, which seeks unspecified financial damages, has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance.

Although Gusman is named as the first defendant in the lawsuit, he has surrendered most operational control of a the lock-up to a court-approved compliance director under the terms of a federal reform agreement.

That agreement was motivated in part by a long history of shoddy medical care and inmate deaths at the jail.

Luling attorneys Corey Oubre and George Ketry Jr. represent Hurst's children.

Criminal court jurors deadlocked on a rape charge against the man Hurst accused, Seandell Kelly, but they convicted him of second-degree kidnapping. Prosecutors have invoked his status as a habitual offender at a sentencing hearing in front of Judge Robin Pittman set for Thursday. Kelly could also be retried on the rape count.


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.