The ongoing saga of Kenneka Jenkins, who was found dead in a suburban Chicago hotel freezer last year, continues as her family has filed a lawsuit seeking for $50 million in damages.
The much-anticipated suit filed Friday in Chicago accuses the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel, a security company, and a restaurant for negligence for failing to secure a freezer in an unused kitchen, and for not conducting a proper search when she went missing from a party, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The 19-year-old Jenkins disappeared on Sept. 9, 2017, after attending a party in the hotel.
Her family went looking for her, but authorities didn’t find Jenkins’ body until some 20 hours later. Surveillance video released by police showed Jenkins stumbling through the hallways until she ended up in the kitchen freezer.
Relatives, friends, and others nationwide questioned whether Jenkins was the victim of foul play, but the coroner said her death from hypothermia was an accident.
The lawsuit filed by Jenkins’ family claims that she passed several hotel employees while she was wandering 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,” the suit said.
The lawsuit blames the security company for failing to stop the party Jenkins attended before wandering away. Dozens of people were hanging out in a room meant for just four guests, a smoke detector had been disabled and the odor of “strong intoxicants” was evident, the suit claims.
And, if security guards had broken up the party in a prompt manner, Jenkins would not have died, the suit said.
The lawsuit also claims the hotel and security company didn’t review security camera footage shortly after Jenkins went missing. That alleged lack of urgency sparked weeks of protests outside the hotel and continued speculation about her death online, the newspaper reports.
The lawsuit also claims the restaurant, which didn’t open until seven months after Jenkins’ death, should have secured the kitchen and made sure the empty freezer was turned off.
Jenkins’ family will be represented by Michigan attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who perhaps is best known for representing the late “right to die” advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
Jenkins family declined to comment about the suit, but a hotel spokesman told the Tribune that it would contest the lawsuit.