A woman who sued Crowley for sex trafficking after she was allegedly raped by a company employee has withdrawn the case after striking a deal with the maritime conglomerate and her alleged attacker.

The out-of-court settlement, disclosed in a federal court in Jacksonville, Florida, came in a case in which judges twice rejected Crowley’s calls to throw out Vanessa Treminio’s claims against the company under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

And her lawyer said she hopes to use the statute against more companies that fail to protect employees from assault.

Treminio, who was an employee in the company’s operation in El Salvador, filed the litigation in February 2022 alleging that her boss, Crowley manager Juan Emilio Blanco, raped her in a Florida hotel room, as TradeWinds has reported.

Her lawyers, Maritime Legal Solutions’ Ryan Melogy and Florida attorney Adria Notari, alleged that her case qualified as sex trafficking and forced labour because she had been subjected to groping by Blanco and had her employment prospects threatened if she did not travel to Crowley’s Jacksonville headquarters with him.

A second woman filed a similar lawsuit in April 2023, and it continues to make its way through the courts.

Treminio’s lawyers provided no details of the agreement with Crowley in a court document voluntarily dismissing the case against Crowley and Blanco.

“The matter has recently been conclusively resolved,” Notari told TradeWinds.

She said details of the agreement are subject to confidentiality provisions but that her client would not have voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit if the terms were not acceptable to her.

District judge Marcia Morales Howard denied motions to dismiss two lawsuits against Crowley and Juan Emilio Blanco. Photo: US District Court for the Middle District of Florida

After the case was filed, Crowley and Blanco both denied allegations in the case.

In January last year, US district judge Marcia Morales Howard rejected their motions to dismiss, finding that the allegations were sufficiently plausible for the case to move forward.

In December, judge Claire Kelly denied a request by the two defendants to issue a summary judgment in their favour, ruling that there were facts in dispute that had to be decided at trial.

Lawyers have described the litigation as a unique application of the US sex trafficking law, and said the rulings allowing the Treminio case to go forward show that they can apply in some workplace sexual assault cases.

The case is one of three that have been making their way through the US federal courts accusing Crowley employees of sexual assault.

In one, a woman identified only as Jane Doe alleged that Blanco attacked her at a Jacksonville hotel, groping and fondling her breasts and buttocks, after a company investigation sparked by Treminio’s complaint was already underway. He has denied the allegations.

In March, judge Howard rejected motions by Crowley and Blanco to dismiss that case.

In a second case, another woman identified as Jane Doe lodged a 2023 complaint alleging that she was raped the previous year by a steward on the 4,500-gt USNS 2nd Lt John P Bobo (built 1985), a ro-ro owned by the US Navy’s Military Sealift Command and managed by Crowley.

The lawsuit was withdrawn in March. But the woman’s lawyer, Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman’s Carol Finklehoffe, said that move was made because she has to file it in another judicial district.

Crowley declined to comment for this story.

In response to previous questions about the cases, Crowley told TradeWinds recently that it has worked to ensure the safety of people in its workplaces and on its vessels, and it will continue to improve its policies and procedures to ensure that it has a safe and welcoming work environment.

“Along with our code of conduct policies and procedures against sexual assault, harassment and retaliation, we require regular online and in-person training for all employees on recognition and prevention of threats to educate and protect our workforce and reinforce our commitment to maintaining a safe, inclusive and respectful work environment,” spokesman David DeCamp told TradeWinds.

As allegations of sexual assault continue to reverberate through the maritime industry, Crowley may not be the last company to face litigation under the 2003 sex trafficking act, which gave victims the right to file federal lawsuits.

“One of my biggest goals now is using the sex trafficking statute to litigate against companies when companies like Crowley know they have a problem and they don’t do anything about it,” Notari said.

In addition to Notari, Treminio was represented by Florida law firm Craig Goldenfarb. Blanco was represented by Cole, Scott & Kissane, while Alexander DeGance Barnett acted for Crowley.