The family of Kenneka Jenkins, who died after stumbling into a hotel freezer last year, is now suing the Chicago hotel, its security contractor and a restaurant which was reportedly renting the kitchen space for $50 million.
The lawsuit claims the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare Hotel, Capital Security and Investigations, and the Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurant were negligent because they didn’t secure the walk-in freezer or conduct a thorough search when the 19-year-old disappeared, CBS News reported.
Jenkins was attending a party at the hotel on Sept. 9 2017 when she disappeared. Her family grew worried and went to the hotel looking for the teen. On Sep. 10, Jenkins’ body was found in the freezer, 24 hours after she disappeared.
Authorities eventually released surveillance footage of the teen stumbling into the hotel’s kitchen, where the freezer was located.
According to authorities, Jenkins died of hypothermia after accidentally walking into the freezer. Her blood alcohol level was 0.112 and investigators also found topiramate, a medicine used to prevent seizures or migraines, in a "therapeutic range" in her system, a report said.
The combination of alcohol and the drug can reportedly cause severe side effects, including poor coordination, confusion and impaired judgement. Police ruled her death accidental.
The lawsuit, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, alleges that Jenkins passed by several hotel employees while walking in the hallways.
“Had Crowne Plaza defendants and employees and/or agents of defendant Capital Security properly intervened when they observed (Jenkins) visibly disoriented, confused and lost within their premises, they would have prevented her from entering the abandoned kitchen and prevented her death,” it reads.
It also claims the freezer that Jenkins was found in had a “sticker affixed that was completely faded and failed to instruct how to release the lock system of the door,” the suit alleges.
Crowne Plaza plans to fight the lawsuit, according to a statement.
“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,” a spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune. “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.”
Capital Security and Investigations did not have a comment. Murray Bros. Caddyshack restaurant did not respond to a request for comment.