Kaba Simplex Locks lawsuits have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation (MDL 2220) and transferred to U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio. The Kaba Simplex Locks litigation will be presided over by the Honorable Donald C. Nugent. The first conference in the litigation, entitled the “Kaba Simplex Locks Marketing and Sales Practices Litigation,” is scheduled for March 8.
The consolidation allows all Kaba Simplex Locks lawsuits to be coordinated under one judge for pretrial litigation to avoid duplicative discovery, inconsistent rulings and to conserve the resources of the parties, witnesses and the court. When lawsuits are consolidated, each retains its own identity. If the MDL process does not resolve the Kaba Simplex Locks lawsuits, they will be transferred back to the court where they originated for trial.
The Kaba Simplex keyless locks, which retail for $300 or more, are used by countless businesses, apartment buildings, hotels, motels, college dorms and even public bathrooms. A PIN number chosen by the lock’s owner is used to operate them, rather than a key, magnetic card, or other means. Kaba Ilco claims this system is more secure than other types of access control. The company claims the locks are ideal for locations with regular personnel turnover, like data processing centers, employee entrances, research labs, apartment complexes, and dorm.
However, lawsuits against Kaba Ilco claim this technology is not anywhere near as secure as represented by their marketing materials. Plaintiffs claim the PIN code technology employed by the locks can be easily overridden with nothing more than a rare-earth magnet. By placing a magnet small enough to fit in the palm of oneâ€™s hand on the front of a Kaba keyless lock, an intruder can have access to a premise in just seconds. The Kaba Simplex keyless pushbutton locks lawsuits contend that the defective locks have to be replaced.
According to a report in Forbes Magazine, the Simplex locks were designed using a critical component called the combination chamber that has been discovered to be sensitive to a strong magnetic field. Kaba reported that it only learned of this security vulnerability in August 2010. The company further claims that rare-earth magnets were not “commercially feasible” when the locks were designed and would constitute a state-of-the-art attack for which it should not be liable.
However, as the Forbes article points out, many lock manufacturers and security experts have been aware of the availability of strong magnets that are capable of opening some locking mechanisms. Despite this widespread awareness, Kaba continued to use this design for years in their locks. The author of the Forbes article maintains that every vulnerable lock should be upgraded to reduce the threat from this kind of attack, especially in high-security applications.
So far, eight Kaba Simplex locks lawsuits have been filed in four federal jurisdictions: New Jersey (1), Eastern District of New York (1), Southern District of New York (1), and Northern District of Ohio (5). According to the Transfer Order dated February 7, 2011, all responding plaintiffs and potential tag-along plaintiffs supported consolidation in the Northern District of Ohio, while responding defendants wanted the lawsuits transferred to the Middle District of North Carolina as transferee district or, alternatively, the District of New Jersey, the Southern District of Florida, or the Northern District of Illinois.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ultimately chose the Northern District of Ohio. In its Transfer Order, the panel pointed out that 5 of the 8 Kaba Simplex lawsuits are pending in this district before Judge Donald C. Nugent, who has previous MDL experience. The panel also wrote that the district is relatively centrally located for this nationwide litigation, and it is accessible for the parties.