Sonny Haynes uses her litigation experience to help clients meet their objectives, whether in federal and state courtrooms or at the negotiation table. Sonny’s litigation practice includes representing a variety of clients from complaint through verdict and on appeal. She has represented clients in both federal and state courts and has appellate experience in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the Supreme Court of North Carolina, and the Court of Appeals of North Carolina. Her skills and experience in pretrial litigation include extensive motion practice and expert witness development.
Sonny regularly litigates matters involving ERISA benefit and fiduciary liability, life, and disability claims. Her contract and commercial tort experience includes defending insurance companies in actions alleging fraud, bad faith, and unfair and deceptive trade practices.
Product Liability and Mass Tort Litigation
Complex scientific and medical issues arise frequently in the product liability and mass tort actions that Sonny handles. She has represented manufacturers of a variety of products and defended against claims involving asbestos, silica, and talc. With experience taking cases to trial and through appeal, Sonny is adept at creating strategic plans encompassing a wide variety of litigation tactics to meet client objectives.
Local Government Defense
Sonny’s experience includes representing county agencies, elected officials, and law enforcement officers in:
- Constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
- State law tort claims
- Employment cases, including Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) discrimination claims; Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) interference and retaliation claims; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigations; and cases involving the North Carolina Human Resources Act
- Administrative law hearings, including contested case hearings before the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings
- Private prison cases
- Department of Social Services (DSS) cases
- Wrongful death cases
Strategic Partnering and Commercial Transactions
Well-versed in cloud-based solutions and software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) arrangements, Sonny has experience developing strategies for contract negotiations and transactions that deliver revenue and growth across a wide range of client industry groups.
Education and School Law
In addition to her broad range of litigation experience, Sonny has extensive experience advising charter schools and education management organizations in the areas of board formation and support, charter applications, and school policy and compliance matters.
Presentations and Publications
- Town Trust Talk: Racial Unrest and Social Injustice, City of Winston-Salem, June 2020
- Power of Persuasion: Communicating Your Argument to the Jury, North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys 39th Annual Meeting and Spring Program, June 2016
- Allocating Risk for Your Company: Playing the Feud, Association of Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting, October 2016
- Spoliation and Changes to Rule 37(e), Commercial Litigation Committee CLE, Defense Research Institute Annual Meeting, October 2015
- Cyber Security Liability Overview for Civil County Attorneys, National Association of County Civil Attorneys Seminar, National Association of Counties Annual Conference and Exposition, July 2015
- Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will Documents, A Gift to Your Family: Advance Care Planning, North Carolina Bar Association, September 2014
- Legal Issues Involving Local Governments: Police Liability Claims, National Business Institute, September 2013
- What Every Officer Needs to Know About Civil Liability, Winston-Salem State University, June/July 2013
- Be Reasonable: Qualified Immunity, After-Discovered Facts, and the Case of Hernandez v. Mesa, The Middle Ground, Vol. 6, Issue 2 (October 2016)
- Litigation Holds and Resolving Spoliation Motions, For the Defense Magazine, Defense Research Institute, April 2015
- Including All Discrete Subparts, The Whisper, Vol. 10, Issue 3, Defense Research Institute, April 11, 2014
Civic and Professional Activities
- 2014 North Carolina Bar Association Leadership Academy Graduate
- North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, Chair, 2016-present; Vice-Chair, 2015-2016
- Advisory Member, Ethics Committee, North Carolina State Bar Council, 2016-present
- Young Lawyer Liaison, Governmental Liability Committee, Defense Research Institute, 2014-2015
- Advisory Member, Authorized Practice Committee, North Carolina State Bar Council, 2013-present
- Advisory Member, Grievance Committee, North Carolina State Bar Council, 2013-2015
- Member, North Carolina Bar Association Minorities in the Profession Committee, 2013-present
- Member, Ethics and Grievance Committee, 21st Judicial District Bar, 2015-present
- Barrister, Chief Justice Joseph Branch American Inn of Court, 2014-present
- Commissioner, Winston-Salem Human Relations Commission, 2013-present
- Chair, Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce Winston<40 Advisory Board, 2013-2015
- Chairman’s Appointee, Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, 2013-2015
- Member, Hospice Foundation Leadership Council, 2014-present
- Rotary Club of Winston-Salem, 2014-present
- Authoring Action, Chair, Board of Directors, 2015-2016; Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, 2013-2015
- Board of Directors, The Queen’s Foundation, 2014-2015
- Board of Directors, HandsOn Northwest North Carolina, 2013-present
- Coach, Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Team, Wake Forest University School of Law, 2012-2014
- Junior League of Winston-Salem, 2012-present
Sonny’s pro bono experience includes successfully obtaining protection orders on behalf of domestic violence victims, representing the interests of children in termination of parental rights hearings, driver license restoration, expunctions, helping clients complete advance health care directives, and guardian ad litem appellate cases.
Honors and Awards
- Recognized by Triad Business Journal, 40 Under 40, 2021
- Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) Rising Stars, 2020
- Super Lawyers North Carolina Rising Star for Civil Rights, Employment Litigation, Civil Litigation, Insurance Coverage, 2016 – Present
Any result the lawyer or law firm may have achieved on behalf of clients in other matters does not necessarily indicate similar results can be obtained for other clients.
- Trial counsel defending a product manufacturer in a product liability and wrongful death action.
- Lead trial counsel in federal court, securing a defense verdict in favor of client employer in a Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 case.
- Second-chaired jury trial in federal court that resulted in a complete defense verdict for law enforcement officers accused of Fourth Amendment violations and state law tort claims.
- Second-chaired jury trial in state court, winning a complete defense verdict for a law enforcement officer accused of excessive force.
- Petersen v. Midgett, 140 F. Supp. 3d 490 (E.D.N.C. 2015) – As lead counsel, defended Dare County Sheriff and detention officers in lawsuit brought by inmate who suffered severe brain injury. Summary judgment in favor of Sheriff and detention officers.
- Johnson v. Forsyth County, et al., 743 S.E.2d 227 (NC App. 2013) – Motion to dismiss affirmed for Forsyth County, Forsyth County Board of Elections, and its director where plaintiffs were not state employees entitled to bring claims under the North Carolina Whistleblower Act.
- Pyrtle v. Hayes, et al., 2012 US Dist. LEXIS 177338 (M.D.N.C. Dec. 14, 2012), recommendation adopted in Pyrtle v. Hayes, 2013 US Dist. LEXIS 16649 (M.D.N.C. Feb. 7, 2013) – As lead counsel, defended Rockingham County Sheriff and detention officers accused of excessive force and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. Summary judgment granted in favor of Sheriff and detention officers.