Almost a year and a half after Kenneka Jenkins was found dead in a Chicago hotel freezer, her mother, Teresa Martin, has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the establishment she blames for her daughter’s death.
In the suit Martin names the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel, Capital Security and Investigations and the Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurant, citing them as negligent, according to the Chicago Tribune. A series of mysterious questions lingered after Jenkins’ body was found on the morning of September 10, almost 24 hours after she wandered away from her friends at hotel party on September 9.
Martin and other family members conducted a search party shortly after Jenkins’ friends reported her missing. A Cook County medical examiner ruled her death was caused by hypothermia, coupled with alcohol and a drug used to treat epilepsy and migraines, after authorities located her body in a Crowne Plaza freezer. Days after Jenkins’ death made national headlines, Rosemont police officials released a surveillance video showing Jenkins as she stumbled through the halls of the hotel in the early hours of September 10.
Since Jenkins’ death, Martin has advocated that the hotel take partial responsibility, citing a variety of reasonings in the suit. They include: “failing to secure the freezer, located in an unused kitchen, and for failing to conduct a proper search when Jenkins went missing from a party,” the Tribune writes.
The suit also lists new details, questioning the accessibility of the freezer Jenkins was found in, compared to other freezers housed in the hotel. The suit claims the door was unsecured and included “a sticker affixed that was completely faded and failed to instruct how to release the lock system of the door.” Police found that the door could only be opened from the inside and concluded that the handle was operating properly. The suit also suggests hotel staff passed Jenkins as she wandered the hotel, but failed to inquire about her whereabouts.
Martin names the hotel security as liable, saying they failed to break up the party after a smoke detector was disabled and the presence of “strong intoxicants” in the room. The suit also names the manner in which staff surveyed the security footage, blaming a lack of urgency in reviewing the cameras to piece together Jenkins’ movements.
The Crowne Plaza released a statement to the Chicago Tribune after the suit was filed, which said the following:
“The death of Kenneka Jenkins was a tragedy, but the proximate cause of her death were the unsavory individuals who used a stolen credit card to book a room and host an illegal party which Ms. Jenkins attended. Those criminals escaped the hotel before police arrived and have never truly been held accountable. This lawsuit has no merit and we will vigorously contest it.”
At this time, Martin nor her lawyer have made any comments about the suit. According to the Tribune, the case was filed by The Beam Legal Team in Chicago, but will be handled by Michigan attorney Geoffrey Fieger who once represented Dr. Jack Kevorkian.