The family of a young woman who was found dead in a Rosemont hotel freezer last year has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the hotel, its security staff, and a restaurant on the premises. The wrongful death lawsuit is seeking $50 million in damages.
Missing Woman Found in Hotel Freezer
On Sept. 9, 2017, 19-year-old Kenneka Jenkins and her friends arrived at Rosemont’s Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel at approximately 1:13 a.m. – with Jenkins in what the lawsuit calls a “completely coherent” state – to attend a party in a room on the ninth floor.
As she and her friends were leaving the party at about 2:30 a.m., Jenkins reportedly informed them that she had left her phone in the room, so her friends went back to retrieve it. By the time her friends returned, Jenkins had disappeared.
Jenkins’ friends contacted her mother, Tereasa Martin, at about 4:00 a.m. to alert her about the disappearance. Martin called the hotel and was allegedly told that the staff would review the security footage. After she did not hear back from the hotel after multiple hours, Martin reported Jenkins missing to Rosemont Police shortly after noon.
According to the lawsuit, it was only when the police came to the hotel to investigate that the security footage was reviewed by either hotel or security staff. The recordings reportedly showed Jenkins stumbling through the hotel, entering an “abandoned” kitchen, and turning a corner toward a walk-in freezer at 3:32 a.m. At approximately 12:24 a.m. on Sept. 10, staff and management found Jenkins’ body in the hotel freezer – nearly 21 hours after she had been filmed approaching it.
Jenkins’ death garnered extensive attention on social media, inspiring dozens of online conspiracy theories and large protests outside of Crowne Plaza. Ultimately, police concluded that there was no foul play and the medical examiner ruled Jenkins’ death an accident by hypothermia, with her ingestion of alcohol and a drug used to treat migraines and epilepsy cited as “significant contributing factors.”
Suit Alleges Negligence by Multiple Parties
On Dec. 11, 2018, Tereasa Martin filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleging counts of negligence and premises liability against multiple parties, including the hotel, F&F Realty, Capital Security and Investigation, and Murray Bros. Caddyshack, the restaurant that had leased the “abandoned” kitchen and its walk-in freezer. These counts concern the supposed failure of various parties either to secure a dangerous area or to provide competent staff.
Specifically, the complaint notes that the potentially hazardous walk-in freezer was inside an unused kitchen that was nevertheless left accessible to the general public. Moreover, the sticker on the door of the hotel freezer that had contained instructions on how to release the lock system was completely faded, thereby denying those trapped inside the knowledge necessary to free themselves.
Regarding the purported incompetence of the hotel staff, the lawsuit alleges that hotel and security workers ignored multiple complaints that there were far too many people in the hotel room where Jenkins was visiting, a room with an alleged strong odor of an “intoxicant” coming from it. Additionally, the lawsuit contends that Jenkins had passed several workers who did not prevent her from wandering through the hotel or entering the kitchen, even though she “was visibly disoriented and in dire need of assistance.”
The lawsuit further finds fault with the staff’s failure to monitor the security cameras properly, arguing that doing so “would have saved her life.” The staff also neglected to review security footage until many hours after they had been first alerted of Jenkins’ disappearance. With a prompt review, the suit contends that “they would have been able to locate her which would have prevented her death.”
As the result of all of these acts of negligence on behalf of the defendants, the lawsuit argues that Jenkins was “seriously, painfully, and permanently hurt and injured as her body shut down and she froze to death.”
In addition to the loss of Jenkins’ life, the wrongful death lawsuit claims that the young woman and her estate suffered “conscious, physical pain and suffering,” severe emotional injuries, humiliation and mortification, loss of wages, funeral expenses, and various other damages.
Martin’s attorneys have demanded $50 million in compensation.