Spanaway man’s lawsuit over wrong sex offender registration rejected

For 14 years, Spanaway resident Vernon Vance’s name and photograph appeared on a public registry for sex offenders and kidnappers when it wasn’t required.

Vance thought he was due some compensation from the state and Pierce County for the inconvenience and embarrassment his forced registration brought.

This week, the Washington State Court of Appeals said no.

Upholding the decision of a lower court, a three-judge panel for Division I ruled Vance brought his personal-injury lawsuit too late and that his arguments, including malicious prosecution and defamation, weren’t persuasive.

“We affirm the trial court’s order dismissing Vance’s claims on summary judgment,” appellate Judge Linda Lau wrote for the majority.

Vance sued Pierce County in 2012, later adding the Washington State Patrol and the state Department of Corrections as defendants.

The convicted felon contended the agencies wrongly forced him to put his name on the register for child kidnappers when he moved from Colorado to Washington in 1998 even though he pleaded guilty in Colorado in 1989 to kidnapping a grown man.

Arrest reports provided to Pierce County indicate Vance abducted a 15-year-old boy, but as part of his plea agreement he admitted to kidnapping the boy’s father, who was a bank president, court records state.

Washington law requires someone convicted of kidnapping a minor to register with authorities.

It wasn’t until 2012 that Vance convinced Pierce County prosecutors he was right, and his requirement to register was dropped.

He then sued, saying he’d lost job opportunities and girlfriends because of the registry.

Superior Court Judge Jerry Costello dismissed his suit before trial, saying Vance brought the action after the statute of limitations had passed, among other things.

Vance appealed.

In a decision released Monday, the Court of Appeals said the lower court got it right.

Vance waited too long to file his lawsuit or take other legal action to get his name off the registry, the panel concluded. The statute of limitations was two years on some of his claims and three years on others.

“The undisputed timeline of events reveals that Vance took almost no action to pursue relief for over 10 years,” Lau wrote for the majority.

The panel also ruled that Pierce County was immune from liability because its employees were acting within the scope of their duties and acted without malice when they required him to register.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644