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Sonia Nolten

Call 2002

+44 (0)20 7822 1200

“Has great authority in court."

Chambers UK 2019

"Brilliant with clients, very user-friendly and professional."

Chambers UK 2019

“Hugely impressive.”

Legal 500 2018

“Approachable, practical and commercial.”

Chambers UK 2017

“Exceedingly clever and down to earth with it.”

Chambers UK 2017

Practice Overview

A “ferocious cross-examiner” who “impresses with her attention to detail…her commerciality [and] her first-class knowledge of the law”, Sonia is a tough and experienced commercial dispute practitioner specialising in insurance, professional negligence and property damage (all areas for which she is recommended in the directories).

She has been involved in a succession of high-profile cases, including appearing in the Supreme Court in the Employers’ Liability Trigger Litigation.

The directories say:

“Has great authority in court.”
“Someone to have on your side when facing a difficult judge.”
“Brilliant with clients, very user-friendly and professional.”
“Clever, clear and a very good barrister.”
“Hugely impressive.”
“Combines great academic knowledge with practical common sense and commerciality.”
“Tactically astute.”
“Highly intelligent and commercially very astute…fabulous at papers and an excellent advocate.”
“Approachable, practical and commercial.”
“Exceedingly clever and down to earth with it.”

Commercial Dispute Resolution

Sonia has a lively commercial litigation practice, and has been instructed in numerous commercial disputes, including arbitral proceedings, raising issues including:

  • Restitution.
  • The construction and validity of clauses including penalty and liquidated damage clauses.
  • Guarantees.
  • Undue influence and capacity to contract.
  • Rectification.
  • Misrepresentation.
  • Evergreen contracts.
  • Construction of joint venture agreements and of letters of credit.

Sonia is frequently instructed in claims raising allegations of fraud in a commercial context, including employee or director fraud, and giving rise to claims in deceit, and for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of trust, knowing receipt, dishonest assistance, conspiracy, conversion and receipt of bribes.

She has acted for and against banks in a range of banking and financial services claims including: fairness of standard terms, breach of mandate, bills of exchange, and the obligations imposed by FSMA and POCA.

Insurance & Reinsurance

Sonia has very significant experience in insurance and reinsurance, and has been listed in Chambers UK as a leading junior in this area for many years.

Sonia is regularly instructed in:

  • Disputes arising out of a wide range of covers (professional indemnity, business interruption, public liability, EL, litigation protection, property, art, and consumer).
  • Construction and coverage disputes.
  • Subrogation and assignment issues.
  • Non-disclosure (in both the commercial and consumer context).
  • Joint insurance.
  • Contribution between insurers.
  • EU regulatory matters.
  • Fraudulent claims.

She is particularly sought after for her expertise in life and health insurance (see further below).

Sonia is also well-recognised for her expertise in EL and PL (including many issues such as whether PL or EL responds to a loss, historic gaps in EL cover, and the circumstances in which EL claims can be declined or cover avoided). She represented MMI from first instance all the way through to the Supreme Court in the EL Trigger Litigation [2012] UKSC 14. This £150m+ litigation, twice named by The Lawyer as a “Top Ten Case” of the year, concerned the liability of EL insurers to pay for asbestos-related disease arising out of exposure many years previously, and provided an important clarification of the law on the admissible factual matrix, commercial purpose, and the parameters of custom and practice. She also appeared in the leading case on policy triggers in public liability insurance, Bolton Metropolitan MBC v Municipal Mutual Insurance Ltd [2006] 1 WLR 1492.

Life & Health Insurance

Sonia’s work on life, income protection and permanent health insurance is an important part of her insurance practice, with Chambers UK noting that she “is a junior of choice for many major insurers” in this highly specialised niche market. She is regularly instructed on large value and complex claims, often against leading counsel.

In addition to relatively straightforward income protection/PHI cases where the extent of disability is disputed, Sonia has substantial experience of the more factually and legally complex disputes which arise under this class of insurance. She regularly advises on group policies, privity of contract between insurer and employee, and limitation (an issue of particular complexity given that the obligation is usually to pay benefit monthly).

On the life/critical illness side, she has dealt with fraudulent claims, suicides (including inquests), murder of one life insured by another, disputes between insolvent policyholders and their trustees in bankruptcy, policies written under trust and cases raising issues of joint/composite insurance.

Sonia has also, very unusually, represented insurers in a judicial review of the Financial Ombudsman Service for (among other matters) making determinations which wrongfully had the effect of overriding FOS’s financial limit.

Professional Negligence

Sonia has been listed as a leading junior for professional negligence every year since 2010. Over the years she has litigated professional negligence actions of all kinds including:

  • Claims involving property damage and construction professionals (structural engineers, architects, building control inspectors, quantity surveyors, project administrators).
  • Claims against brokers and financial advisors, requiring her insurance/banking expertise.
  • Claims with an underlying chancery/commercial flavour, where allegations of fraud have been made or when professional indemnity cover is disputed.
  • Numerous valuer claims, testing the boundaries of contributory negligence by lenders (prime and otherwise), and advising on the complex issues which arise when fraudulent conveyancing is suspected, or the loan in question has been assigned and/or securitised.
  • Claims in which the “percentage chance of a better outcome” “approach was challenged because the counterparty to a commercial transaction gave evidence, raising the question of what the counterparty would have done should be decided on the balance of probabilities.

Sonia has also represented both lawyers and their clients in many contexts, particularly where fraud or coverage issues are in play.

Property Damage

Sonia has been listed as a leading junior for property damage every year since Chambers UK introduced the category. Over the years she has litigated damage claims of all kinds including:

  • Large commercial fires arising from defective design, products and working methods, from failed fire suppression measures and from use of equipment or appliances known to be defective.
  • Domestic fires caused by a wide range of appliances including golf cart batteries, fridges, TVs and tumble dryers.
  • Fires resulting from arson or carelessly discarded smoking materials.
  • Indoor floods caused by air conditioning units, LTHW systems and defective pipework.
  • Outdoor floods involving culverts, drains, bunds and highways, and floods caused by changes to the topography of an area during building development.
  • Nuisances arising from spread of fire, ignis suus and escape of dangerous substances.
  • Nuisances involving loss of amenity, business interruption and financial loss.
  • Nuisances with a real property element, such as interference with easements, trespass, and claims where one or both parties’ interest in land is via adverse possession.
  • Subsidence and landslips.
  • Coverage disputes under CAR, public liability, PI and other policies.
  • Cross-over claims involving liability of professionals, especially in the construction field.