Kaba Simplex Locks In Thousands of Homes, High Security Government Buildings Aren’t So Secure, Lawsuits Claim

Eleven lawsuits are pending in an Ohio federal court over Kaba Ilco Corps.’ Simplex Pushbutton Locks. Plaintiffs claim the keyless locks, which utilize a PIN code technology, can be easily opened with a commercially available magnet. According to a report in The New York Times, the plaintiffs in the Simplex Pushbutton Locks lawsuits have accused Kaba Ilco of deceptive trade practices, common-law fraud, negligence and product liability.

The Kaba Simplex Pushbutton Locks retail for as much as $1,000.00. According to The New York Times, 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.

Kaba is preparing a free kit to modify the locks and make them magnet-proof. But lawyers for Kaba Ilco have asserted that plaintiffs’ claims are overblown, asserting for example, that “it takes a magnet the size of a bagel to get the locks open.”

Earlier this month, plaintiffs’ attorneys showed a video in court as an informal briefing for the judge that countered some of the defense arguments. According to the Times:

“The video shows someone sliding a magnet against a lock and removing it with one hand. The magnet pulls a locking plate away from the mechanism, allowing the door handle or knob to turn freely. Once the magnet has been removed, the narrator says, the plate slides back into place, and there is no evidence that the mechanism has been bypassed.”

The magnet required is only a couple of inches square, the Times said.

Another argument the defense has made is that there have been no break-ins or injuries attributed to the Kaba Simplex locks. On plaintiffs attorney told the Times that “there’s no way to know that,” and that even if no one has yet been harmed, “it’s obviously irresponsible to wait for criminal activity to occur before warning the public and taking immediate corrective action.”

Marc Weber Tobias, an expert on locks and security who was interviewed by the Times said, “This is a serious deal and affects lots of agencies.” He wrote an article about the locks’ problems on Forbes.com, and has sent alerts to law enforcement agencies, security professionals and locksmiths.

“This is a very significant issue, because they are playing a game of jeopardy with the protection of property and lives,” Tobias told the Times. The report noted that Tobias is not working with any of the attorneys involved in the Kaba Simplex Locks litigation.

Plaintiffs are demanding that the Kaba Ilco replace the locks, pay compensatory damages and even turn over all profits made from the locks over the years.

Earlier this month, Kaba Simplex Locks lawsuits from around the country were consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio. The attorneys named to the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee in that litigation included Jerrold Parker, Managing Partner with the national law firm of Parker Waichman Alonso LLP.

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