By late July 2020, Michael Martin and his fiancee, Inger Tyree, had everything set for their Aug. 1 wedding.
Because it was the height of the covid-19 pandemic, Martin and Tyree planned to have their 125 guests attend the Boyce Park reception in shifts so they could follow capacity rules but still enjoy their big day.
But on July 22, Martin didn’t feel well. He had a fever of 103 degrees, trouble breathing and an extremely sore throat. He called UPMC Community Medicine and was referred to UPMC Mercy South Side for a covid test.
He also went to the emergency room and a rapid test showed he had strep throat. He said he received a dose of steroids and quickly felt better.
“I didn’t feel like I had covid,” Martin said.
The next day, however, the physician assistant at his doctor’s office called and told Martin that he had tested positive for covid. Martin was stunned.
“‘You know I’m getting married? Are you sure?’” he said he asked the physician assistant. “She said, ‘Yes, you have to cancel the wedding.’”
And that’s what Martin did.
He immediately called all the vendors they’d hired and told family and friends the wedding was off. Martin said he lost $6,000 for the suits he had rented for his five groomsmen, $3,325 for the photographer and $4,800 for a DJ who was scheduled to be at the reception from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m.
His fiancee was devastated.
The next day, the physician assistant called back and said she had read the computer screen incorrectly. Martin didn’t have covid, she said.
On Tuesday, Martin, 56, of Monroeville, filed a lawsuit against UPMC Community Medicine, Primary Care Partners of Monroeville UPMC and the physician assistant who reported the positive test result.
A spokesman for UPMC said he could not comment on the pending litigation.
On Wednesday, Martin described how difficult it was to have to cancel the wedding in the first place.
Family members were planning to fly in, and Inger, who had been married before in a small ceremony, had been especially looking forward to the larger event. She spent countless hours making table centerpieces and buying chair coverings. There’s still about $2,000 worth of banquet supplies in their basement, Martin said.
After he learned that he did not have covid, Martin said he tried to get everything back on track. But he said it was too late. The venue was gone and, at that stage of the pandemic, people were still fearful, he said.
The couple decided to still get married on Aug. 1, 2020, and Martin said he tried to make it special.
He said a friend of a friend owned a yacht and was willing to rent it out for the day. Martin, Tyree, their daughters, an aunt and the best man boarded the yacht at a dock along the Allegheny River in New Kensington and then spent the day out on the water, where they exchanged vows.
“We didn’t have the wedding we wanted, but the ultimate goal was to be married,” Martin said.
Martin said he spoke to his doctor about the mistake and the doctor was sympathetic. He said he would speak with officials in the practice to try to help Martin recoup some of his losses, but nearly two years later, Martin said the doctor told him no money would be forthcoming.
Martin said the lawsuit is partly about recouping some of the money he lost, but it’s also about ensuring that what happened doesn’t occur again.
“People don’t want to own up to their responsibility that this happened,” he said. “This error, she read the screen wrong. You diagnosed me incorrectly, and it caused me this turmoil.”