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A public relations nightmare for bicycle lock maker Kryptonite may prove to be a treasure trove for plaintiffs lawyers. Days after widespread reports that some of the company’s locks could be quickly picked, at least three lawsuits have been filed against the lock maker in San Francisco and San Diego superior courts. The suits complain that Kryptonite deceived customers into believing some of the company’s locks — those with tubular cylinders — would substantially diminish the likelihood of theft. The suits allege that Kryptonite, now owned by Ingersoll-Rand Co., knew that the locks could be opened with the hollow plastic casing of a ballpoint pen. Two are class actions, and the third is a representative action filed under California’s unfair competition law, California Business and Professions Code � 17200. Kryptonite doesn’t comment on pending litigation as a matter of company policy, spokeswoman Donna Tocci said in an e-mail. But, she added, “This is not just a Kryptonite concern. Anything with a tubular cylinder — vending machines, soda machines, ignition systems, coin-operated laundry and other security products — could be a concern.” Though Kryptonite has so far taken the most heat, it’s clear that it won’t be the only target for litigation. Pinnacle Law Group, which filed the 17200 action in San Francisco, filed a separate suit the same day against Master Lock Co. making similar allegations. (A spokeswoman for Master Lock could not immediately be reached for comment.) And Toronto-based Sack Goldblatt Mitchell, which filed a class action Sept. 20 on behalf of Canadian customers in Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, named Kryptonite as well as other U-lock manufacturers as defendants, said partner Louis Sokolov. Two of the firms who filed the California cases have personal links to the bikers named as plaintiffs in their actions. The suit filed by Pinnacle Law Group partner Andrew August names Michael Terry, one of the firm’s paralegals. And Michael Padilla said his firm, San Diego’s O’Mara & Padilla, filed a class action in San Francisco Superior Court after getting a call from one of the three named plaintiffs — San Francisco cyclists who are friends of one of his firm’s associates. Solo Darrell Palmer, one of two lawyers who filed a class action in San Diego County Superior Court, isn’t particularly into cycling. But the lawyer working with him on the case, R. Michael Bomberger of Estey & Bomberger, is his office neighbor and an avid cyclist who “got lots of calls from his biking friends,” Palmer said. Palmer and Bomberger estimate their class could include about 2 million people nationwide. Palmer notes that his brother had one of the locks, and his bike was stolen in recent years, and Bomberger added that a secretary at his firm had a similar experience a few years back. “There’s a lot of potential plaintiffs out there,” Bomberger said. Shortly after the news began spreading like wildfire, Kryptonite reportedly offered to “upgrade” certain models, replacing a part — but owners had to have bought locks in the last two years. On Wednesday, the company sweetened the offer, saying it would exchange anyone’s tubular-cylinder lock for a non-tubular cylinder lock. According to the company’s Web site, it expects to begin shipping them in mid-October. Not good enough, said Palmer. “What if people don’t want a Kryptonite lock anymore?”

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