The family of a 19-year-old who died in a Chicago-area hotel’s walk-in freezer settles

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CNN
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The family of Kenneka Jenkins, a 19-year-old woman who died in an Illinois hotel’s walk-in freezer more than six years ago, has settled a lawsuit against the hotel for $10 million.

The young woman’s body was found in the freezer in September 2017 after she attended a party at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare Hotel. After reviewing hours of surveillance video and interviewing party attendees, authorities said at the time her death was accidental and there was no reason to suspect foul play.

A copy of the settlement order filed Tuesday in the Circuit Court of Cook County states Jenkins’ mother, Tereasa Martin, will receive approximately $3.7 million, while other parts of the settlement will go toward the payment of attorney fees, funeral costs and other expenses.

Two other family members will also receive a combined $2.7 million of the settlement fund.

A medical examiner in 2017 ruled Jenkins’ death was accidental, caused by hypothermia and “cold exposure in a walk-in freezer” as well as “ethanol and topiramate intoxication.”

Topiramate is prescribed for a range of conditions, but is most commonly used to treat epilepsy and migraines. Jenkins’ family said she had not been prescribed the drug, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. She also had blood alcohol levels higher than the legal driving limit.

Authorities released surveillance video in 2017 that showed Jenkins staggering through the hotel’s hallways before she disappeared. She is seen exiting an elevator after 3 a.m., alone and visibly impaired. Minutes later, she is seen entering a kitchen, CNN has previously reported.

The footage does not show her entering the cooler and freezer, where she was found nearly 24 hours later, because no cameras show the doors directly.

In addition to the hotel’s owners, Jenkins’ estate named the hotel’s security contractor and the restaurant that managed the space where Jenkins was found dead, alleging they did not do enough to find the young woman after she disappeared.

None of the defendants admitted to wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which the court filing said was the result of three separate mediations.

CNN reached out to attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants for comment on Thursday but did not receive an immediate response.

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