Leonard Decof (1924 – December 31, 2010) was an American trial lawyer from Rhode Island, known for his many notable cases. A "prominent trial lawyer," his "legal career in Rhode Island lasted more than a half-century."
Early life, military career, and education
Decof was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Morty and Rose Metz Decof. Decof served as a captain in the United States Marine Corps. He served during World War II in the Pacific Theater of Operations in Guam from 1943 to 1946 and at Parris Island, South Carolina from 1950 to 1952.
Decof practiced tort law, including medical malpractice, product liability, and personal injury, as well as antitrust and commercial litigation. Decof was known for his skill as a trial lawyer. He won a landmark case establishing the right of medical insurance policyholders to sue malpractice insurers under antitrust laws. Decof's cases reached the Supreme Court several times, and Decof successful argued three cases before the Court.
Decof also successfully represented Victor DeCosta in an unfair competition and copyright infringement against CBS; DeCosta had created a character that CBS later used in one of its television Western Have Gun – Will Travel.
In 1975, Decof represented Lawrence Ketvirtis in a $1.5 million lawsuit against the basketball player Marvin Barnes. Ketvirtis alleged that Barnes attacked him with a tire iron, causing permanent physical injury, while the two men were teammates at Providence College. Decof won the case, with the jury returning a $10,000 verdict for Ketvirtis.
In 1991, at the request of Governor Bruce Sundlun, Decof represented the State of Rhode Island in litigation following "the collapse of the insurance system that backed state credit unions." Decof recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for the state, for which he received a public commendation from Governor Lincoln Almond in February 2001.
An avid golfer, Decof served as counsel in several golf-related legal matters. He was counsel for Karsten Manufacturing (Ping) in a lawsuit against the United States Golf Association over its ban of its U-grooved golf clubs from the PGA Tour (the suit was settled out-of-court in 1993), and served as special counsel to the Callaway Golf Company. He also represented Nike Golf and several professional golfers, including Adam Scott, Greg Norman, Sam Snead, Billy Casper, and Gardner Dickinson.
Decof was a member of the Rhode Island Bar Association, American Bar Association, Association of Trial Lawyers of America, International Academy of Trial Lawyers, Inner Circle of Advocates, and the International Society of Barristers, a diplomate of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and American Law Institute. He lectured before several bar associations and at several law schools and wrote a number of published legal pieces.
- Leonard Decof, Renowned Trial Lawyer, Dies at 86, Providence Business News (January 4, 2011).
- Leonard Decof, Inner Circle of Advocates.
- Thomas J. Morgan, Leonard Decof Dies; Providence Trial Lawyer was 86, Providence Journal (January 3, 2011).
- Paladin Show Made Millions, Court is Told, Associated Press (February 24, 1966).
- Huge Damage Suit Against ABA Star in Now Underway, Associated Press (November 18, 1975).
- Jury Orders Barnes to Pay, UPI (November 26, 1975).
- Gold Club Settlement Reached (April 15, 1993. Gainesville Sun.
- Joe Concannon, Getting Wise Counsel, Boston Globe, September 20, 1998.