Family of Chicago woman who died in hotel freezer agrees to $10 million settlement

Dec 14, 2023, 7:17 AM

CHICAGO (AP) — The family of a Chicago woman who froze to death after she became locked in a hotel freezer has agreed to a $10 million legal settlement.

Kenneka Jenkins’ mother, Tereasa Martin, will receive about $3.7 million, according to court records made public Tuesday, the Chicago Tribune reported. Other family members will receive $1.2 million and $1.5 million. Another $3.5 million will cover attorney fees, with $6,000 covering the cost of Jenkins’ funeral.

Jenkins was found dead in the walk-in freezer at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in suburban Rosemont in September 2017, a day after she attended a party there. The Cook County medical examiner’s office determined that she died of hypothermia and that her death was accidental.

Alcohol intoxication and the use of a drug for treating epilepsy and migraines were “significant contributing factors” in her death, the office said. Surveillance videos released by police showed Jenkins wandering alone through a kitchen area near the freezer at around 3:30 a.m. on the day she disappeared.

Martin filed a lawsuit in December 2018 alleging that the hotel, a security company and a restaurant at the hotel that rented the freezer were negligent because they didn’t secure the freezer or conduct a proper search following Jenkins’ disappearance. The lawsuit initially sought more than $50 million in damages.

According to the lawsuit, friends that Jenkins had attended the party with alerted Martin at around 4 a.m. that she was missing. Martin contacted the hotel and was told it would review surveillance footage, according to the lawsuit.

But Jenkins’ body wasn’t discovered for more than 21 hours after she was believed to have entered the freezer. Surveillance footage wasn’t reviewed until police arrived at the hotel, according to the lawsuit. Had the hotel properly monitored the security cameras, Jenkins would still be alive, the lawsuit argued.

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Family of Chicago woman who died in hotel freezer agrees to $10 million settlement