Kaba Group Slammed For Downplaying Pushbutton Lock Defects

In a statement issued last week, Kaba Group acknowledged that several of its entities are facing lawsuits over specific models of pushbutton locks sold and distributed by Kaba Access Control. The Kaba Group statement strongly implied that claims that the Kaba pushbutton locks can be easily opened with a magnet are overblown. However, at least one attorney representing plaintiffs in Kaba pushbutton locks lawsuits has sharply criticized the company’s attempt to gloss over the seriousness of this alleged defect.

The pushbutton locks that are the subject of the litigation, known as <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/Kaba-Keyless-Locks-Simplex-Pushbutton-Mechanical-Lock-Class-Action-Lawsuit">Kaba Simplex Pushbutton Locks, retail for as much as $1,000.00. Kaba Ilco markets the locks as a “strong, powerful security solution,” and claims they are vandal resistant. The Simplex Locks are used to secure a variety of high-security premises, such as research labs and government buildings, including buildings at Guantanamo Bay. The same locks are also used by many Orthodox Jews, whose religious beliefs prohibit them from carrying keys on the Sabbath.

Last month, a number of Kaba Simplex Locks class action lawsuits were consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio. According to a report published last month by The New York Times, the plaintiffs in the Simplex Pushbutton Locks lawsuits have accused the defendants of deceptive trade practices, common-law fraud, negligence and product liability.

In the press release it issued last week, Kaba Group downplayed the allegations in the lawsuits, describing the type of magnet that can access the locks as an “ultra-strong industrial magnet made using rare-earth minerals, and known as an NIB magnet.” As soon as it discovered the defect – which the company says occurred prior to the filing of any class action lawsuits – Kaba Group claims its “engineers designed and implemented an upgrade for these products that makes the locks resistant to magnetic bypass from these new NIB magnets.” The release further states that Kaba Access Control also began developing a field Service Kit to upgrade the existing locks to resist a magnet attack. According to the statement, those kits are being rolled out to “those who request one.”

The Kaba Group statement goes on to point out that plaintiffs in the class action lawsuits have not alleged that any of the models of pushbutton locks listed in their complaints has actually ever been opened through a magnetic attack. Finally, Kaba Group asserts that Kaba Access Control has not received a single confirmed report of any such compromise from any of its customers.

While the defense laid by the Kaba Group statement may appear convincing, at least one plaintiffs’ attorney has poked some big holes in the company’s claims. Jerrold Parker, managing partner with the national law firm of <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/">Parker Waichman Alonso LLP and a member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee for the Kaba pushbutton locks litigation, insists Kaba Group’s description of the magnet needed to access the locks is misleading.

“Rare earth magnets are not new – they have been around since the 1980’s,” Mr. Parker said. “Also, there is nothing “rare” about them – the name is misleading – the elements that make them up are very common.”

Last month’s New York Times’ report on the Kaba pushbutton locks lawsuits also casts doubt on Kaba Group’s claims about the magnet. That report described a video that plaintiffs’ attorneys aired earlier this month during an informal briefing for the judge who is overseeing the litigation. The video showed a Kaba pushbutton lock being opened with a magnet within a matter of seconds. The magnet used to access the lock measured only a couple of inches square, according to the Times.

Mr. Parker also took issue with Kaba Group’s claims that it addressed the issue with the locks in a timely matter.

“How long Kaba knew about the issue? We don’t know,” he said. “What we do know is that knowledge that magnets can open improperly designed locks has been known for decades.”

He then went on to slam the remedy touted by Kaba in the lawsuit. “And giving everyone a repair kit if they ask? How do they know to ask? Where is the locksmith to install it?”

Finally, Mr. Parker denied that a lack of known break-ins caused by the locks’ defects was material because a magnet attack leaves no evidence that a lock has been bypassed. “How do you know that the Kaba lock was bypassed if you don’t know it’s vulnerable?” he asked.

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