A battle more than lawful service fees has erupted in the condition courts concerning Ross M. Cellino Jr. and an legal professional who not too long ago took at least 70 customers with him when he remaining Cellino’s legislation company and started out his very own.
Just one of these purchasers, now represented by John W. Looney, was awarded $525,000 earlier this thirty day period in an automobile accident situation.
Cellino – noting that the scenario commenced with the aged Cellino & Barnes law agency – submitted court papers inquiring for a share of that revenue. Also inquiring for a part is the Barnes Company, the business started by the late Stephen Barnes, Cellino’s previous lover at Cellino & Barnes.
In his courtroom statement, Looney mentioned he expects to receive one particular-third of the $525,000 – which is $175,000 – as a authorized payment. He explained he has performed a long time of extensive, in depth do the job on the case.
He proposed that his new law organization should get 90% of the legal service fees from the situation and Cellino’s business, Cellino Law, really should get 10%. Looney also instructed that the Barnes Agency ought to get a part of Cellino’s 10%.
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Cellino maintains that Looney should really receive “no far more than a single percent” of the fee, and the relaxation ought to go to Cellino Regulation and the Barnes Agency.
On Tuesday, Looney filed a statement with the court docket that provided harsh criticism for his previous boss, Cellino.
Looney accused Cellino of currently being obsessed with “cash move problems” at his new law business. Looney alleged that Cellino repeatedly pushed him and other attorneys to settle their individual personal injury circumstances to maximize revenues for the organization.
Cellino denied Looney’s allegations in a statement he sent to The Buffalo News on Friday.
“We never ever, and I repeat, hardly ever settle a circumstance for a lot less than full price,” Cellino said. “We pride ourselves on performing what is very best for our consumers and combating difficult for them.”
Looney said he left Cellino Law in November because he was upset above Cellino’s “anxiety” and “paranoia” about revenues produced by the organization. He alleged that Cellino’s “sole focus was on the dollars he was spending.”
“Ross Cellino’s paranoia eventually morphed into outright worry. He would stroll all over the business to remind the attorneys to settle far more cases, so he could promote a lot more, so the mobile phone would ring far more,” Looney stated in his sworn statement.
“Ross Cellino expressed concern more than income on a frequent foundation, generally declaring, ‘I am owning serious hard cash circulation challenges. I am not absolutely sure we are likely to make it as a organization,’ ” Looney explained.
Looney explained 79 of his previous clients from Cellino & Barnes and Cellino Legislation resolved to transfer their instances to Looney’s new Buffalo business. Cellino mentioned the genuine quantity was 70 scenarios.
Cellino and Gregory V. Pajak, taking care of legal professional at Cellino Law, denied Looney’s claims in a assertion to The News and a assertion that Pajak submitted in the condition court docket situation.
Cellino accused Looney of “a income grab” and said Looney has “sadly resorted to particular mud-slinging in opposition to Cellino Regulation and our personnel.”
“Mr. Looney has also recommended that I abandon any claim to the service fees on the 70 instances that he took from my business.” He stated that recommendation is “outrageous.”
Cellino stated the dispute also impacts the Barnes Business and the estate of Stephen Barnes, which would also acquire portion of any authorized service fees produced by former Cellino & Barnes situations.
“Steve and I spent yrs constructing our reputation to catch the attention of purchasers to our company and Mr. Looney now wishes to economically profit by taking our information and unfairly sharing the fees,” Cellino claimed.
Looney joined Cellino’s new organization, Cellino Legislation, in the later on portion of 2020, just after Cellino’s separation from Cellino & Barnes.
Two legal professionals from the Barnes Business – the firm’s president, Richard Barnes and John Murrett – also filed statements with the court docket, indicating their firm is entitled to a portion of the authorized charge.
The immediate dispute consists of a lawful fee of $175,000 but it could also influence how lawful costs are break up in at the very least 69 other particular injury situations that Looney’s new legislation organization took when Looney still left Cellino Regulation.
All those 69 or far more circumstances commenced as Cellino & Barnes instances and are likely well worth tens of millions in settlements and verdicts, according to lawyers included in the dispute.
According to lawful gurus, there is almost nothing abnormal about rate disputes among lawyers when several legislation corporations have been concerned in a person case.
“That occurs all the time, and in the vast greater part of scenarios, lawyers in this group are ready to get the job done items out among on their own,” reported Chris O’Brien, an Amherst individual harm attorney for extra than 30 several years who has taught at the College at Buffalo Faculty of Legislation.
But condition Supreme Courtroom Judge Catherine Nugent Panepinto will decide what transpires in this scenario.
Severe fiscal problems have strike the Buffalo legislation business that legal professional Ross M. Cellino Jr. commenced past 12 months after a messy breakup with his small business lover, Stephen E. Barnes.
The Information noted final June that Cellino Regulation was enduring monetary difficulties, and that Ross Cellino experienced slice salaries for attorneys at the company and warned that as several as half the work opportunities at the organization may have to be eliminated.
In Friday’s assertion, Cellino mentioned his law organization is “one of the major and strongest personalized damage law companies in New York,” adding that he expects it to develop .
The price dispute includes the scenario of Carlisha Shaw, a Buffalo spot woman who, according to court information, suffered a spinal damage when an Uber vehicle she was using in struck an additional motor vehicle in downtown Buffalo on July 7, 2017.
Shaw, a passenger in the car or truck driven by Daniel Ghebrue, was awarded $525,000 on Jan. 14 by situation arbitrator Daniel T. Cavarello. In a court document, Cavarello claimed he found that the Uber driver was “negligent.”
Cavarello explained he would have awarded her $750,000, but he lowered that total by 30% because Shaw’s injuries had been made far more intense by her failure to dress in a seat belt.
The dispute is the most up-to-date chapter in the story of Cellino and Stephen Barnes, whose ubiquitous promotion strategies made them two of the nation’s most prosperous and well-recognized particular harm lawyers.
At 1 time, according to courtroom records, the two Cellino and Barnes had been individually producing a lot more than $1 million a month from the juggernaut legislation company.
The breakup adopted a bitterly fought court docket battle that commenced in 2017, when Cellino explained he wished to start his individual organization with his two daughters and other lawyers.
When Cellino and Barnes started their personal corporations, the two new firms break up up about 10,000 pending circumstances. They produced an agreement to share upcoming costs on a circumstance-by-situation basis.
Stephen Barnes and his niece, legal professional Elizabeth D. Barnes, died in a aircraft crash in Oct 2020, just in advance of the Barnes Business and Cellino Law commenced functions.
His brother, Richard Barnes, and other attorneys have ongoing to function the Barnes Firm given that the tragedy.
Attorney Gerald T. Walsh, who represents Looney in the rate dispute, declined to remark on the scenario.