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Doctor kills self after malpractice verdict

Lawrence Grey, who specialized in vasectomy reversals, had been ordered to pay a former patient $1-million.

By BILL COATS
Published May 4, 2006


TAMPA - On Friday afternoon, Dr. Lawrence Grey listened in a Hillsborough County courtroom as a jury announced its verdict: He should pay a former patient $1-million.

Late Friday night, Grey's wife found him dead in their $2-million Bayshore Boulevard home, hanging in a bedroom closet from a yellow nylon rope.

Grey's apparent suicide left lawyers in the malpractice case reeling.

Jeffrey Hunter, the Tampa lawyer who represented Grey, heard about the death Saturday night after a family outing.

"I was shocked," Hunter said Wednesday. "I still am."

Timothy Moran, the Jacksonville lawyer who represented the former patient, learned of Grey's death Wednesday from a Times reporter.

"I never intended for something like that to happen," Moran said. "I blame his insurance company for not doing the right thing."

Moran said he offered to settle the case for $250,000, the limit of Grey's insurance coverage, and later for $175,000, but was turned down.

If the jury's verdict of $1,005,000 stands, Grey's business will be liable for $755,000.

Hunter wouldn't comment on the settlement decisions. He said he intends to ask for a new trial. If denied, he plans to appeal.

Grey, a 51-year-old urologist, specialized in microsurgery that reversed vasectomies, restoring his patients' abilities to father children.

Grey marketed himself online as the Vas Doctor. That's a reference to the vas deferens, the narrow tube through which sperm travels from the testicles, and which a surgeon snips in a vasectomy.

Grey used laser tools and techniques that he developed, he told the Tampa Bay Business Journal in a profile three years ago.

"The microbeam is strictly my own creation," Grey said in the profile. "The laser beam gives you a cleaner, more precise cut with less damage to tissue."

Hunter said Grey recently was performing 400 to 450 vasectomy reversals a year.

In August 2002, he operated on Thomas Asimos, a Navy criminal investigator based in Jacksonville.

Asimos later hired Moran to sue Grey's practice, contending that Grey left two 3-inch squares of gauze inside Asimos' scrotum. They caused pain and infection and eliminated Asimos' ability to enjoy sex, according to court documents.

Hunter argued that another doctor, perhaps the one who did Asimos' vasectomy in 1998, must have left the gauze behind. Grey used larger gauze pads. He accounted for each pad he used, and employed a technique that made losing such a pad unlikely, Hunter said.

During last week's trial, Grey seemed fine, Hunter said.

"He was upbeat," said Moran. "He was very cordial. He was friendly."

The suit wasn't personal, Moran said. He sued Grey's business, but not Grey. He sought insurance proceeds, not Grey's personal assets, Moran said.

The jury of four women and two men found that Grey was negligent. It decided Asimos deserved $205,000 in past and future medical expenses and $800,000 in damages.

After finding Grey's body, his wife Muriel told a Tampa police detective that her husband "was despondent over having to pay a $750,000 judgment," according to a case summary from the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner's Office.

The detective reported that Grey's medications on hand included an anxiety drug and several antidepressants. A toxicology report is pending.

By this week, the Vas Doctor Web page was stripped of most content and given a tribute to Grey.

"His life's work was devoted to bring life and joy to others," it said in part. "He will be remembered for not only his dedication to his work, but his exceptional attitude on life and the simple pleasures it can bring to each of us."

Bill Coats can be reached at 813 269-5309 or coats@sptimes.com

[Last modified May 4, 2006, 00:58:04]


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