Stephen Barnes, one half of the iconic Cellino & Barnes injury law firm, was reportedly killed in a plane crash in Western New York on Friday.
According to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, a small engine plane registered to Barnes was found “pretty much disintegrated” in a wooded area of Genesee County shortly before noon on Friday. A source in Barnes' law firm told the Buffalo News that Barnes was piloting the plane, accompanied by a female relative. There were no survivors, officials said.
The CBS affiliate WIVB-TV confirmed that the aircraft, a Socata TBM-700, was registered to an address that matches the Buffalo office of Cellino and Barnes.
The personal injury attorneys achieved an improbably level of notoriety over the last decade, thanks to a catchy jingle and ubiquitous ads. In some years, each partner earned more than $10 million, according to New York Magazine, an unheard of amount for injury lawyers.
Their split in 2017, after Ross Cellino announced he planned to sue Barnes, came as a shock to many New Yorkers. The "divorce," as Barnes put it, followed a series of escalating fights about whether Cellino's daughter should work for the firm.
Barnes later sought a restraining order against Cellino, thanks to the latter's alleged attempts to steal away the firm's staff to start his own venture
"There are fundamental disagreements in how we manage the firm and how we practice law," Cellino told the Buffalo News of the split, "but that doesn't diminish the fact that we built something significant. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished."
Inquiries to the firm were not immediately returned.