Wife of first MTA worker who died of COVID-19 sues agency


The wife of the first MTA worker to have died of COVID-19 is suing the agency — claiming the transit authority didn’t properly respond to the pandemic, new court papers show.

Karen Oles says that her husband and machinist railroad worker, John Oles, died April 13 after he “was caused to be exposed to and contracted COVID-19” due to working in the Harmon Support Shop around April 2, a Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit from Wednesday alleges.

Karen Oles says the MTA and Metro-North Commuter rail — where the father of two worked for 28 years — failed to come up with protocols to slow the spread of the virus including providing workers with proper personal protective equipment, cleaning facilities, screening employees for the virus and keeping sick employees from coming to work, the court papers say.

Oles brought negligence and wrongful death claims against the agencies. She is suing for unspecified damages.

Oles family lawyer Bob Sullivan told The Post, “They had these men working in such close quarters that there were no safety precautions taken whatsoever. And that’s why he’s dead.”

“This was a 58-year-old healthy hardworking man,” Sullivan said. “His wife was also working for [the MTA]. They have two daughters and the family deserves to be substantially compensated.”

To date, the city has seen 128 coronavirus-related deaths among transit workers, a spokesman for the MTA confirmed.

And one in four city transit workers reported contracting the virus at some point this year, according to a study conducted by the largest transit union, TWU Local 100.

In March and April, thousands of workers called out sick, causing massive subway cancellations.

The MTA — which initially prohibited employees from wearing masks at all, citing CDC guidance at the time — came under fire by the TWU Local 100 for its alleged slow response to the pandemic.

MTA spokesperson Amanda Valdes told The Post, “Our deepest sympathies go out to the Oles family.”

“This pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges, but the MTA has led the way forward in protecting the health and safety of its customers and employees at every turn,” Valdes said. “While we have not yet been formally served with this lawsuit, we will aggressively litigate these claims in the courtroom and not in the press.”

Additional reporting by David Meyer

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