A strange lawsuit is slithering its way through the court system. It involves a doctor, an office employee and one of the region's most famous attorneys.
Oh, and a rubber snake.
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According to court documents, the snake made its fateful appearance on May 26, 2010, on the desk of Ula Peak, a 50-year-old coordinator in the patient administrative services department at Mease Dunedin Hospital. Peak, who lives in New Port Richey, says it was placed there by an emergency room physician, Dr. Gregory Micklow, 42.
Micklow "placed a lifelike rubber snake under documents that were on Plaintiff's work desk," the lawsuit reads. Peak "lifted the papers, saw the snake and, thinking it was real, recoiled in horror by grabbing the desk and forcefully pushing back her chair away from the snake. In pushing her chair away, Plaintiff's neck snapped backwards and forwards. As a result, Plaintiff suffered a neck injury."
In the months after the snake incident, Peak's life crumbled, the suit says: Her injury required surgery, and she said she was demoted and then fired in March 2011 because of her workers' compensation claim.
Peak hired Wil Florin, one of the most well-known attorneys in the Tampa Bay area. Florin, who did not respond to the Times' request for comment, has represented clients such as professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and former University of South Florida football coach Jim Leavitt.
Florin's lawsuit, filed in Pinellas Circuit Court in March, names Micklow, BayCare Health System and Mease Dunedin Hospital as defendants. The suit accuses Micklow of negligence, saying he should have known that Peak "would react to the snake in the manner she did, and thus, her injuries were reasonably foreseeable."
The suit also accuses the hospital and the health system of workers' compensation retaliation. From each of the three entities, Peak is seeking damages of more than $15,000 for things such as disfigurement and scarring, inconvenience, mental anguish, lost wages and diminished earning capacity.
Records show that Micklow's medical license is free of any complaints or disciplinary actions. Efforts to reach him through the phone numbers listed in court documents and other records were not successful. His attorney, Kerry J. Anderson, did not return a call for this story.
Micklow worked at Mease Dunedin as an employee of the doctor group EmCare. Mease spokeswoman Beth Hardy would not comment on the case and said Micklow is no longer working at the hospital. Hospital attorney Kevin D. Johnson declined to comment as well.
Micklow, who is also licensed to practice in Tennessee and Kentucky, is now working at Jennie Stuart Medical Center in Hopkinsville, Ky., as an employee of Align MD, hospital spokesman Jim Goss said. Micklow did not return a message left at the hospital Friday for this story.
When reached by phone Thursday, Peak was abrupt.
"I'm not saying anything," she said, before hanging up.
The case is not yet slated for trial.
Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.