SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - Relatives of a 19-year-old woman who died after becoming locked inside a freezer at a Rosemont hotel will receive more than $6 million in a wrongful death settlement.
The agreement was made public Tuesday morning as the case was set to go to trial, and it appeared recent efforts to reach a settlement had broken down.
Kenneka Jenkins was found dead on Sept. 10, 2017 inside a walk-in freezer in an unused kitchen at the Crowne Plaza hotel, a day after attending a party there. Her death was ruled an accident caused by hypothermia, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
Still, her death spurred a rash of conspiracy theories on social media and her funeral drew a crowd of more than 1,000 people.
Jenkins’ mother, Tereasa Martin, sued the hotel, a security company and a restaurant at the hotel, seeking more than $50 million.
The total settlement amounts to $10 million, with about $3.5 million going to attorney fees and costs for Martin’s lawyers. It includes more than $6,000 as payment for Jenkins’ funeral.
Martin will receive more than $3.7 million, court records show, with other family members receiving $1.2 million and $1.5 million.
Jenkins had attended a party in a room at the hotel and was leaving with friends around 2:30 a.m. when she realized she left her phone in the room. Her friends went back to find it, but she was gone when they returned.
Security video showed Jenkins stumbling through the hotel, entering an "abandoned" kitchen and rounding a corner toward a walk-in freezer at 3:32 a.m., the lawsuit stated.
About 4 a.m., friends alerted Martin that they had not seen her daughter since they first left the room. Martin reached out to the hotel and was told that they would review the surveillance footage, the lawsuit alleged.
Jenkins’ body was not found for more than 21 hours after she is believed to have entered the freezer.
When police came to the hotel to investigate, the surveillance footage was reviewed for the first time. Hotel or security staff had not watched the recordings, the lawsuit said.
The suit alleged the hotel failed to properly monitor the security cameras, arguing that doing so "would have saved her life."